The impact of welfare policies on discouraging or encouraging marriage has long been a topic of discussion. Welfare programs, by providing single parents with the economic means to support their children, are thought to discourage marriage by their nature. The negative economic effects of single motherhood are well-known. In 2000, the poverty rate for children raised in female-headed families was 39% compared with 8% for children raised in married couple families. Federal funding for cash welfare for needy families with children was originally restricted to single parent families with children and to those in which the second parent was incapacitated. States were first given permission to aid needy families with children with two able-bodied parents in 1961, and were only required to aid them as recently as October 1990. Even so, federal policies in place before the 1996 welfare reform law restricted federal funding for cash aid for two-parent families. The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant, created in the 1996 welfare reform law (P.L. 104-193), replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) as the primary source of federal funding for cash welfare to assist families with children. Under both programs, states administered cash welfare and designed programs within federal rules. TANF, however, gives broader discretion to the states in program design. Federal rules under AFDC restricted eligibility for families with two able-bodied parents. These rules were also seen as a disincentive for two parents to live in the household and possibly marry. TANF permits states to set their own policies for two-parent families, allowing states to remove such disincentives (and most have done so). TANF also permits states to spend funds to promote marriage and two-parent families. These can be activities both within and outside of their cash welfare programs. Indeed, three of the four statutory purposes of TANF relate to either promoting marriage, reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies, or promoting two-parent families. This report discusses: TANF goals for promoting marriage and two-parent families and their implications for the use of TANF block grant funds; TANF cash welfare programs as they relate to two-parent families, including special federal work participation requirements and eligibility rules for these families; and The degree to which states have used TANF funds for services to promote the formation and maintenance of two-parent families. (Author abstract)
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Welfare Reform: TANF Provisions Related to Marriage and Two-Parent Families.