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Welfare Realities

Welfare Realities

From Rhetoric to Reform

Mary Jo Bane, David T. Ellwood

ISBN 9780674949133

Publication date: 02/01/1996

Mary Jo Bane and David Ellwood examine the American welfare system—its recipients, its providers, and the swirl of policy ideas surrounding it—with objectivity and clarity. Focusing on the AFDC Program (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), they examine the composition of the populations receiving assistance, the duration of that assistance—who receives benefits for a long time and who only briefly, during important transitional periods—and the prospects facing AFDC recipients within the administrative culture of the system. The authors identify three models that have been used to explain “welfare dependency” and test them against an accumulating body of evidence They offer suggestions for identifying potential long-term recipients so that resources can be targeted to encourage self-sufficiency. Finally, they review policy options.


  • Avoiding rhetorical excess and narrow partisanship, Ms. Bane and Mr. Ellwood criticize both sides in the current welfare debate, those who grow censorious about welfare cheating as well as those who grow starry-eyed about welfare rights. Exemplary in [its] moderation, Bane and Ellwood[’s]…book is about why welfare is such a tough nut for the most adroit ‘policy wonk’ to crack.

    —Jean Bethke Elshtain, New York Times Book Review


  • Mary Jo Bane is Thornton Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy and Management at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
  • David T. Ellwood is Academic Dean and Malcolm Wiener Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 238 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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