In the four decades preceding the 1996 welfare reform, the number of Americans on welfare had never significantly decreased. By 1995, nearly one in seven children was on AFDC. The typical AFDC beneficiary was on welfare for an estimated average of 13 years. And such welfare dependency gets passed from one generation to the next: For example, in a 2002 study, researcher Marianne Page of the University of California, Davis, found that if a woman’s family had received welfare during that woman’s childhood — be it AFDC, General Assistance, food stamps, or Supplemental Security Income — that woman was roughly three times as likely to receive welfare as an adult. The ’96 reform sought to disrupt this cycle of inter-generational dependence by moving families with children off the welfare rolls through increased work and marriage.
Examining Welfare Use by Household. A large body of prior research has examined welfare use and the fiscal impact of immigrants by looking at households because it makes the most sense. Perhaps the largest study of its kind was done by the National Research Council in 1997. The NRC did a household-level analysis in their fiscal estimates because "the household is the primary unit through which public services are consumed." 17 In their fiscal study of New Jersey, Deborah Garvey and Thomas Espenshade also used households as the unit of analysis because "households come closer to approximating a functioning socioeconomic unit of mutual exchange and support." 18 Other analyses of welfare use and programs, including by the . Census Bureau, have also used the household as the basis for studying welfare use. 19 The late Julian Simon of the Cato Institute, himself a strong immigration advocate, also argued that it did not make sense to examine individuals when looking at the fiscal impact of immigrants. 20 In addition, some of the welfare use variables in the SIPP are reported at the household level, not the individual level.