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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Welfare reform shines a light on work-force development challenges

  • Author(s): Campbell, David
  • et al.

In August 1996, Congress passed sweeping reforms to the nation's welfare system, requiring most recipients to work and placing a 5-year limit on benefits. The California Communities Program at UC Davis has been studying the progress of welfare reform in six California counties, and comparing the state's experience to national trends. Through more than 200 interviews and an extensive literature review, we have found that welfare reform is succeeding in reducing caseloads and reinventing local social-service bureaucracies. But these changes must be joined with long-term job creation and work-force development strategies if they are to truly reduce poverty. California's welfare reform policies and experiences highlight the particular challenges facing rural counties, which generally have fewer staff resources, a less-developed infrastructure of nonprofit service organizations, and lower expectations about their ability to implement major reforms.

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