Sociology Assignment


This outline is written by selected writer, so please follow comments made by my instructor and do correction. Sources must be longer than 10 pages and have been peer reviewed from journal. Otherwise, requirements do not meet


Welfare Impact on Women, Poverty and Marriage


Introduction. 2

Impact of Welfare on Women. 3

Impact of Welfare on Poverty. 4

Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage. 6

Conclusion. 8

References. 10


In a bid to decrease the caseloads that were associated with the AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), major welfare reform was created in the United States under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). The PRWORA further replaced AFDC with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This program was intended to end some of the welfare benefits that the individuals who were part of the welfare were entitled to. The aim of PRWORA was to reduce the need parents’ overdependence on the government. TANF, on the other hand, served to encourage financial independence especially among the women and to reduce the cases of their overdependence on the government, their husbands, and family members alike. It also encouraged marriage and employment among women.


Some of the negative impacts of the welfare reform include the fact that marrying while on welfare has created a situation whereas compared to the men, the women lose a lot more than they gained. It does, however, have its own positive impacts. For one, the reform has significantly decreased the overdependence on the government for aid. Another positive impact is the fact that welfare reform has reduced poverty levels in different ways. The aim of PRWORA is to promote work, discourage the birth of children out of wedlock and to encourage marriage. This paper, therefore, will focus on the impact of the welfare on women, poverty and marriage.

Impact of Welfare on Women

To begin with, welfare reform seems to affect women disproportionally. According to Hegewisch and Gornick, single male households lose less than 4% of their overall net income while the single female households a little over 4.5% of the same (2011). Moreover, by 2015, women were found to lose more than 12% of their income. In the United Kingdom, 90% of all the lone parents are women. This further shows just how much the women are affected negatively by the welfare. Further research shows that 74% of the savings that are acquired through the current benefit changes actually come directly from the pockets of the women (Soss & Schram, 2007). Such statistics account for half the losses that women face on the account of being part of the welfare program.

Besides, the Universal Credit system will most probably lead to the loss of financial independence for the women due to the change to single household payment. The credit, therefore, is paid to only one dependent individual per household (Wood, Moore & Rangarajan, 2008). While it is probable that the dependent individual in the specific household could be the woman, a higher percentage of the credit often goes to the men who are more often than not the dependent individuals. The single household payment system further cripples the low income families that rely on both salaries to live above the poverty level. For such families, the system means that the women, who are often the primary carers, do not receive the payment needed to care for the children.

On a different note, welfare reform could potentially push the women further from the labor workforce. The Universal Credit system creates financial disincentives for second earners (Hegewisch & Gornick, 2011). This credit system is more kind to single-earner households by providing them with a better tax and benefit system as compared to the couples that have two earners. This essentially means that the couple in this case loses more to state support as compared to the single-earner. Between the man and woman in the couple, the women are more often than not the second earners. Therefore, the women are the ones most affected by this system.

The tax credits and child benefit changes to the welfare reform have discouraged women from returning to the workforce. As it is, childcare has become very expensive for the average family under the welfare. Some researchers have found that women who work full-time in Europe are left with a weekly average of £4 after taking care of the childcare payments. This does so little to encourage women to actually work full-time especially since it seems as though the income they get does little to alleviate their financial constraints.Moreover, it is worth noting that only 54% of women as compared to 66% of men are eligible for the Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

Taking a look at the losses that the women face as a result of the Universal Credit system amongst other tax credits and benefit changes creates an instant and urgent need for reforms to the welfare program. As it is, the women seem to be paying a heavier price as compared to the men which is in essence an issue of gender equality. Therefore, unless these changes are assessed and significant changes made to them, it will soon reach a time where the women will be completely forced out of the labor workforce and fall into poverty as a consequence.

Impact of Welfare on Poverty

One dominant argument in contemporary literature is that poverty levels are still on the rise as a result of the welfare expansion. For these analysts, welfare expansion has led to what they refer to as a work disincentive effect (Fording & Berry, 2007). The argument in this case, is that providing welfare expansion has discouraged the poor from working. Like everything else, some individuals may be discouraged from working to a certain goal if they are assured off a reward regardless of the outcome. The same applies to the poor working class who live below the work threshold. While this may not be the case for all poor individuals, it sure is the case for many faced with the same predicament.


Other analysts, however, believe in the income enhancement effect when it comes to the war on poverty. In most states in the US, the additional welfare spending has significantly reduced the poverty rates. An individual is considered poor if their income falls below the established threshold. Therefore, what this means is that additional welfare spending focuses more on the group effort as opposed to an individual poverty rate. As it is, an increase in the income of a poor individual is sanctioned only if it serves to lifts them above the poverty threshold (Fording & Berry, 2007). This means that the incomes of poor individuals will most likely remain as it is unless the aim is achieved.

Further research reveals that more parents have been encouraged to look for employment as a consequence of PRWORA (Soss & Schram, 2007). The research further finds that there has been a notable 67% decrease in all the families that receive welfare. For these families, the welfare program opened their minds into looking for ways in which they can earn an honest living so that they can stay above the poverty threshold. This means that while some families may be taking advantage of the welfare, other families have used it as an encouragement to finding better employment opportunities, whether blue-collar, white-collar or pink-collar.

Additionally, the Earned Income Tax Credit has created employment opportunities for unmarried mothers. This Tax Credit system was created solely for this purpose among others.As mentioned before, childcare and child support expenses have been on a rise for a while now. This has in turn made it difficult for the working class mothers to afford the childcare costs while at the same time taking care of the other basic needs. For this reason, the Earned Income Tax Credit has made it their goal to provide employment opportunities to as many unmarried mothers as possible (Herbst, 2011). Such employment opportunities go a long way in ensuring that these mothers are able to move from the poor category to the working class thus reducing the poverty line significantly.

Based on this analysis, it is evident that the income enhancement effect does more good than harm to reducing the overall poverty rate. However, this outcome is only manifested with regard to the poverty rate and not the overall individual poverty levels. There are undoubtedly several reasons for the increase in the poverty rate. The welfare program, however, serves to lower this rate. For as long as the government continues to focus on increasing the welfare expenditure to raise the income of poor individuals in relation to their position on the poverty threshold, a significant change will be seen in the rate of poverty.

Impact of Welfare Reform on Marriage

Welfare reform has a profound impact on poverty levels in America. For example, states with higher and more generous cash benefits are mainly those with have lower marriage rates and higher divorce rates. One way to explain this is that the AFDC program provides mainly targets single women who have dependent children (Graefe & Lichter, 2008). This situation strongly influences many married women’s decision to divorce their husbands in order to qualify for greater benefits as single mothers. In addition, this provision has made the women less enthusiastic about marriage, and as such would rather end up as single mothers. However, it is worth noting that this situation couldchange in the onset of the AFDC-UP program that now considers the eligibility of two-parent families for the same benefits previously enjoyed only by single parents (Soss & Schram, 2007).

Through TANF, welfare tightening and welfare loosening programs have been created whose effects could either increase marriage rates or divorce rates. The welfare tightening programs refer to those that decrease the generosity of welfare while welfare loosening programs refer to those that make it more generous. Welfare loosening can be achieved by raising the incomes. In cases where an increase in the income increases the independence of a woman, the marriage rates will be low while the divorce rates will increase significantly. The reverse could also occur if the salary raise has a stabilizing effect. Despite the financial disincentives associated with marriage, TANF only lowers cases of marriage as a short term effect (Graefe & Lichter, 2008).

Researchers have also found that women with better labor market opportunities tend to avoid marriage at all costs (Gregg, Harkness & Smith, 2009). Like in cases where an income raise leads to a feeling of independence, better job opportunities tend to give women the illusion of independence. The feeling of independence, therefore, makes the concept of marriage less appealing to the women. This is in contrast with the effect that it has on men. Men generally associate independence with marriage and as such are more likely to marry immediately they achieve independence. Therefore, depending on which end of the spectrum the achievement of independence falls, the marriage rates could either increase or decrease significantly.

All in all, the probability of the women that depend on welfare marrying is almost equal to the probability of marriage among the women that do not depend on the same. Women all over the world, have the same mindset. Unlike the traditional days when the biggest achievement of a woman would be to get married, the contemporary days have given rise to a group of women that take pride in achieving everything by themselves and without the help of a man. This is further emphasized by some researchers who find that men tend to be intimidated by wealthy and powerful women and as such avoid marrying them.

In general, PRWORA encourages financial independence among women, which in turn leads to a generation of women that does not believe in marriage. The more independent a woman is, the less attracted they are to the concept of marriage. On the other hand, an independent man is more likely to marry. Therefore, I do not believe that much can be done to stabilize this situation. This is because financial independence for the women is a great milestone that should not be undermined, whether or not the women are dependent on welfare. However, it should be noted that as a long-term effect, women tend to marry eventually.


PRWORA has had a very significant impact on women, poverty and marriage. For women, it is clear that the reforms have not been kind to them as a gender. Women have been found to lose a higher percentage of their income to the program as compared to men. Moreover, the Universal Credit systems seems to do more harm than good as it may lead to the loss of financial independence of the women and has potentially discouraged women from returning to the workforce. Welfare has decreased the poverty rates in general by providing an income enhancement effect by encouraging people to get employed and developing programs that create employment opportunities for the single mothers.

Like in women and poverty, welfare has also had a significant impact on marriage and divorce. While it is not clear where the cutting edge of the knife will fall, it is clear that the welfare reform creates a sense of independence for both the men and women. This independence, increases the need for marriage among the men while at the same time decreases the rate of marriage among the women.

Clearly, the welfare reform has had both positive and negative effects on all the three variables: women, poverty and marriage. It is therefore imperative to conduct an assessment that will identify the negativity and consequently find a way to resolve the issues or to modify the programs associated with the same especially as it pertains to the Universal Credit System. The welfare reform is here to stay, therefore, it is pertinent that it is reviewed to fit the needs of today’s constantly changing American society.


Fording, R. C., & Berry, W. D. (2007). The historical impact of welfare programs on poverty: Evidence from the American states. Policy Studies Journal35(1), 37-60.

Graefe, D. R., & Lichter, D. T. (2008). Marriage patterns among unwed mothers: Before and after PRWORA. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management27(3), 479-497.

Gregg, P., Harkness, S., & Smith, S. (2009). Welfare reform and lone parents in the UK. The Economic Journal119(535), F38-F65.

Hegewisch, A., & Gornick, J. C. (2011). The impact of work-family policies on women’s employment: a review of research from OECD countries. Community, Work & Family14(2), 119-138.

Herbst, C. M. (2011). The impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on marriage and divorce: Evidence from flow data. Population research and Policy review30(1), 101-128.

Schaller, J. (2013). For richer, if not for poorer? Marriage and divorce over the business cycle. Journal of Population Economics26(3), 1007-1033.

Soss, J., & Schram, S. F. (2007). A public transformed? Welfare reform as policy feedback. American Political Science Review101(01), 111-127.

Wood, R. G., Moore, Q., & Rangarajan, A. (2008). Two steps forward, one step back: The uneven economic progress of TANF recipients. Social Service Review82(1), 3-28.

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