Well, here’s yet another complication to Bill Clinton’s welfare reform. Changes in welfare policy during the 1990s put the incentive on welfare recipients to work, by means of kicking them off after a certain, rather arbitrary, period of time. The changes received a mixed reaction from liberals: first an urge to veto the legislation, then warming up to the reforms but calling for alterations to them.
A new study shows (via Inside Higher Ed) that single mothers are dropping in college attendance in an era of welfare reform because education doesn’t count as work. In single mothers aged 24 to 49 with only a high school education, college attendance reduced by 20 to 25 percent compared with pre-welfare reform statistics. The researchers behind the study say there is strong evidence to think this might be linked to the changes in distribution of welfare.
This policy doesn’t make a lot of sense. The best way for many people, especially women, to increase their income is to attend school. By placing the emphasis of welfare reform only on work and not including education in that formula, we’re reinforcing economic stratification and discouraging economic mobility. Without knowing much about the nitty gritty of welfare policy, it seems to me we should fix this policy to encourage higher education, not discourage it.
Cross posted at Pushback.