How welfare reform changed American poverty, in 9 charts

Twenty years ago, President Clinton kept a promise. “I have a plan to end welfare as we know it,” he said in a television spot during his campaign for office. He did, on Aug. 22, 1996.

The law that the president signed that day, together with other policies enacted by Congress and the states, profoundly changed the lives of poor Americans. It was intensely controversial at the time — a controversy that is heating up again today. New data on the hardships of poverty in the aftermath of the recent recession have exposed what critics say are shortcomings of welfare reform.

Clinton ended the traditional welfare system, called Aid to Families With Dependent Children, under which very poor Americans were effectively entitled to receive financial support from the federal government. In the new system, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, applicants must meet a range of strict requirements that vary by state to get help — working, volunteering, looking for a job or participating in skills training.

– The Washington Post

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