Welfare "recidivism" among former welfare recipients

Tyrone Chiwai Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


With welfare reform soundly launched and its effects already praised, it is time to examine its impact on former welfare recipients. A typology of adaptation to welfare - comprising dependency, supplementation, self-reliance, and autonomy - was developed based on former welfare recipients' financial status and employment status. An examination was also made of ways in which welfare recipients changed from more independent modes of adaptation (autonomy and self-reliance) to less independent modes (supplementation and dependency). Using longitudinal data extracted from a U. S. Department of Labor survey, event history analysis was applied to investigate changes in adaptation mode and factors contributing to these changes, among former welfare recipients across a period of 18 years. The investigation found that return to welfare was uncommon. Furthermore, the results show that non-poor former recipients most often joined the ranks of the working poor because of welfare reform, ethnicity, education level, occupational skills, family income, housing subsidy, child care, and prior experience in welfare use. Some nonpoor former recipients who spent long spells in welfare returned to welfare because they suffered income reductions and needed food stamps. Working poor former recipients were likely to become nonpoor if they were married and had no need for child care or food stamps. Working poor White, single mothers with little work experience and little child support were likely to return to welfare and become further dependent on it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-74
Number of pages12
JournalFamilies in Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


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