Strategies for Reducing Early Childbearing and the Growth of Single Parent Families

Chairman Herger, Ranking Member Cardin, and Members of the Committee:

I am pleased to have the opportunity to testify today on proposals to reauthorize the 1996 welfare reform law. I serve as a Co-Director of the Brookings Institution’s Welfare Reform and Beyond Initiative, and as part of that effort we have carefully reviewed and synthesized a very large volume of research, have talked with many state and local officials as well as other interested “stakeholders,” and have done some analysis of different proposals to encourage work or strengthen families. I also serve (part-time and on a volunteer basis) as President of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a nongovernmental organization chaired by former Governor Tom Kean. I should emphasize, however, that my testimony today reflects my own views and not the views of any organization with which I am affiliated.

Our work at Brookings has convinced me that welfare reform has been much more successful than many people anticipated. Some of this success is the result of the robust economy that prevailed in the late 1990s and to the expansion of work supports such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. But much of the success we have had in reducing caseloads, increasing employment among single mothers, and lowering child poverty must be attributed to the 1996 law. In reauthorizing the law, I believe we can build on that success. In doing so, I want to suggest that Congress give particular attention to the following: keeping the focus on moving people into unsubsidized jobs rather than placing them in government-funded work slots, making work pay, breaking the cycle of poverty by investing in child care and early childhood education, and increasing the proportion of children being born to, and raised by, two-parent, married families. Since my time is limited, and these are large topics, I will focus the remainder of my testimony on the last objective.

(The complete testimony is available using the View Full Testimony link above.)