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Activation and Reform in the United States: What Time Has Told, Working Paper 048 Open Access

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The 1990s produced sweeping changes in basic income support in the United States. The showpiece of the transformation was the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). PRWORA ended the prevailing structure of public assistance — Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) — as it had evolved since the 1930s, and replaced it with something that was claimed to "end welfare as we know it". States began implementing the new programme, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), in October 1996, completing the transition in 1998. A central feature of PRWORA-related reforms was an increase in activation requirements associated with social assistance receipt. While few states required that recipients work for benefits, most began requiring effort at finding work or participating in work-related activity as a condition for both initial qualification for assistance and continued eligibility. Thus, the new welfare was in a sense workfare, the "Job You Can‘t Refuse" (Lødemel and Trickey 2001).

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