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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Car Access and Welfare-To-Work


This paper examines the role of car access (including but not limited to car ownership) in facilitating employment among recipients under the current welfare-to-work law. In 1996, Congress enacted the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which dramatically altered this nation’s social policy. TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) replaced the old AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program, but the transformation went well beyond renaming the welfare system. Instead of providing an entitlement, the legislation’s goals are ending welfare dependency and promoting economic self-sufficiency through employment. New regulations limit cash support, place a time limit on benefits, mandate strong work requirements, and delegate the implementation to the states and local agencies. As a result of these reforms, hundreds of thousands of recipients are entering the labor market, but their ability to find a job remains unanswered. Successful restructuring of the welfare system requires implementing agencies to eliminate as many barriers as possible. Many recipients are severely disadvantaged by limited education and work experience, but the obstacles are not confined just to human-capital deficiencies. Moreover, time limits have shifted strategies from training and schooling to placing individuals in a job as quickly as possible.

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