- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2002

Teen-age children of working welfare mothers do worse in school than teens whose welfare mothers don't work, according to a new synthesis of welfare studies.
Teens with younger siblings seem to be the poorest performers, possibly because their single working mothers rely on them for child care, said Lisa A. Gennetian, a lead author of the study released today by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp.
"These findings should give pause to policy-makers who want to change the welfare law and make mothers leave home even more," said Jodie Levin-Epstein of the Center on Law and Social Policy.
The report comes as the Bush administration and House Republicans are calling for the next round of welfare reform to require welfare parents to be in productive activities 40 hours a week, including 24 hours of work. Law now requires 20 hours of work.
Many of the mothers studied in the report worked 30 hours a week, Ms. Gennetian said.
It also seems mothers are putting their younger children into supervised care, but not their teens. "So they're out there, doing what adolescents do, hanging out," said Ms. Gennetian, who has a Ph.D. in economics.
The 1996 welfare-reform law helped 5.4 million people leave poverty, the Department of Health and Human Services said in a new report to Congress, and part of the reason the law has worked so well "is because of work, that there is a work requirement," President Bush said yesterday in Little Rock, Ark.
"It's also important to say that part of the work requirement is you've got to work 40 hours a week. In other words, work is work," Mr. Bush said, adding that "anything that weakens the work requirement in a welfare-reauthorization bill hurts the people we're trying to help."
The Senate Finance Committee, meanwhile, is still preparing its welfare-reform bill. It is expected to be more lenient in its work requirements allowing attending college to count as work, for instance than the House bill.
Since welfare reform was passed, a myriad of studies have been commissioned to measure its impact on the lives, behaviors and families of welfare recipients. While many studies have found positive outcomes for adults, young children and elementary school children, others have shown that teens in welfare families have not fared as well.
The Manpower report synthesized eight studies from 16 programs in nine states and two Canadian provinces. It found that teens with working mothers on welfare were more likely to get low grades, repeat a grade, get suspended or drop out, compared with teens in welfare families in which mothers didn't work.
"Instead of the 'one size fits all' work rules that have been proposed," Miss Levin-Epstein said, "states should continue to have flexibility regarding a mother's assignments so that programs are better tailored to individual families' needs."
The findings don't speak to whether work hours should be lengthened, Ms. Gennetian said. However, she said the findings probably indicate that the kinds of jobs low-income moms have access to aren't flexible and don't allow them to be home when their teens are out of school.


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