Aid to Families with Dependent Children

Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) was a federal assistance program in effect from 1935 to 1996 created by the Social Security Act (SSA) and administered by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provided financial assistance to children whose families had low or no income.

This program grew from a minor part of the social security system to a significant system of welfare administered by the states with federal funding. However, it was criticized for offering incentives for women to have children, and for providing disincentives for women to join the workforce. In 1996, AFDC was replaced by the more restrictive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Seal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services
Seal of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which administered the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program


Welfare Benefits Payments Graph
The overall decline in welfare monthly benefits (in 2006 dollars)[1]

The program was created under the name Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) by the Social Security Act of 1935 as part of the New Deal. It was created as a means tested entitlement which subsidized the income of families where fathers were "deceased, absent, or unable to work".[2]:29 It provided a direct payment of $18 per month for one child, and $12 for a second child.[2]:30[3]:76

The federal government required contributions from individual states, and authorized state discretion to determine who received aid and in what amount.[2]:30 ADC was primarily created for white single mothers, who were expected not to work. Black mothers, who had always been in the labor force, were not considered eligible to receive benefits.[4] In 1961 a change in the law permitted states to extend benefits to families where the father was unemployed, a measure with 25 state eventually adopted.[5]:164 The words "families with" were added to the name in 1962, partly due to concern that the program's rules discouraged marriage.[2]:31

The Civil Rights Movement and the efforts of the National Welfare Rights Organization in the 1960s expanded the scope of welfare entitlements to include black women. The welfare rolls racial demographics changed drastically. The majority of welfare recipients still remained white and most black female recipients continued to work.[4] Starting in 1962, the Department of Health and Human Services allowed state-specific exemptions as long as the change was "in the spirit of AFDC" in order to allow some experimentation. By 1996 spending was $24 billion per year. When adjusted for inflation, the highest spending was in 1976, which exceeded 1996 spending by about 8%.[6] In 1967 the federal government began requiring states to establish the paternity of children eligible for the program, and extended benefits to "unemployed male parents with a work history".[2]:31

Man-in-the-house rule

A number of states enacted so called "man-in-the-house" rules, which disqualified families if there was any adult male present in the household whatsoever. As Williams and Hardisty phrased it:

States had wide discretion to determine eligibility and many states conditioned the receipt of welfare on the sexual morality of the mother, using "suitable home" and "man in the house" rules to disqualify many African American single mothers.[7]

The "man-in-the-house" rule was struck down in 1968 by the US Supreme Court in King v. Smith.[8] Thereafter, families with males in the household were eligible for benefits if they were not deemed to be actual or substitute parents, although any financial contribution on the part of the male to the family was still considered a part of the family's total income.[3]:77 By 1981, the Supreme Court went further and required that states take into consideration the income earned by step-fathers.[3]:77

Thirty-and-a-third rule

AFDC caseload[5]:166
Time period Growth
1950-60 7%
1960-65 24%
1965-70 125%
1970-75 29%
1975-80 3%

The year 1967 saw the establishment of the thirty-and-a-third rule, which allowed families to keep their first $30 earned along with one third of their income following the first $30 without the change affecting their eligibility for benefits.[5]:164[9]:95 This and other factors lead to a large increase in enrollment.[9]:95 For example, caseloads rose 24% from 1960 to 1965, but rose 126% in the period from 1965 to 1970.[5]:166


Early in the program, there were concerns about whether it encouraged unwed motherhood.[2]:31 Some advocates complained that the rule had the effect of breaking up marriages and promoting matriarchy:[a]

[T]he AFDC program tended to treat households with a cohabiting male who was not the natural father of the children much more leniently than those with a resident spouse or father of the children. This feature created a clear disincentive for marriage and also a clear incentive for divorce, because women who married face the reduction or loss of their AFDC benefits.[3]

In 1984, libertarian author Charles Murray suggested that welfare causes dependency. He argued that as welfare benefits increased, the number of recipients also increased; this behavior, he said, was rational: there is little reason to work if one can receive benefits for a long period of time without having to work.[5]:162-6 His later work and that of Richard J. Herrnstein and others suggested possible merit to the theory of a dysgenic effect,[10] however, the data are not entirely clear.[11]

One economist was unable to find convincing evidence that welfare programs have a strong effect on the dissolution of marriages.[12] But right or wrong, this argument was among the stepping stones leading to the modification of AFDC toward TANF.[13]


In 1996, President Bill Clinton negotiated with the Republican-controlled Congress to pass the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which drastically restructured the program. Among other changes, a lifetime limit of five years was imposed for the receipt of benefits, and the newly limited nature of the replacement program was reinforced by calling AFDC's successor Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Many Americans continue to refer to TANF as "welfare" or AFDC.

TANF has remained controversial. In 2003, LaShawn Y. Warren, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, said that TANF gives states an incentive "to deny benefits to those who need it most. The solution to getting people out of the cycle of poverty is not to prematurely kick them off welfare. Too many have been denied aid unfairly, creating a false impression that the number of people who need help has decreased."[14] In 2006, a The New Republic editorial wrote, "A broad consensus now holds that welfare reform was certainly not a disaster—and that it may, in fact, have worked much as its designers had hoped."[15]

See also


  1. ^ see also single-parent family


  1. ^ 2008 Indicators of Welfare Dependence Figure TANF 2.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Blank, Susan W.; Blum, Barbara B. (1997). "A Brief History of Work Expectations for Welfare Mothers" (PDF). The Future of Children. 7 (1). Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d Grossbard, Shoshana A. (28 April 2003). Shoshana Grossbard-Shechtman (ed.). Marriage and the Economy: Theory and Evidence from Advanced Industrial Societies. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521891431. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Roberts, Dorothy (1997). Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty. Chapter 5: Pantheon Books.
  5. ^ a b c d e Murray, Charles (4 August 2008). Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, 10th Anniversary Edition. Basic Books. ISBN 9780786723775. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  6. ^ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (website) "Federal and State Expenditures for AFDC"
  7. ^ The Right's Campaign Against Welfare
  8. ^ "Aid To Dependent Children: The Legal History". Virginia Commonwealth University. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  9. ^ a b Kiefer, Christie W. (2000). Health Work with the Poor: A Practical Guide. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813527772. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  10. ^ Herrnstein, R. J. and Murray, C. (1994). The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-02-914673-9 pgs 191-193
  11. ^ The Bell Curve Flattened by Nicholas Lemann in Slate (January 1996)
  12. ^ Schoeni, Robert F. and Rebecca M. Blank. 2000. "What Has Welfare Reform Accomplished? Impacts on Welfare Participation, Employment, Income, Poverty, and Family Structure." National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 7627. Cambridge, MA: NBER
  13. ^ "Transcendental goods", Reason (magazine), April 1, 2004, by Nick Gillespie, "Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950–1980 was a devastating dissection of welfare programs and is widely credited with helping inspire the welfare reforms of the 1990s." This is also supported by "George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography", by Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin Chapter 11
  14. ^ ACLU Says Current Welfare Reform Measure Ineffective, Calls for Civil Rights Protections, Better Poverty Elimination Efforts (September 10, 2003)
  15. ^ Fared Well. New Republic, September 4, 2006, Vol. 235, Issue 10, Page 7.

Further reading

External links

Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 P.L. 96-272

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (AACWA) was enacted by the US Government on June 17, 1980. Its purpose is to establish a program of adoption assistance; strengthen the program of foster care assistance for needy and dependent children; and improve the child welfare, social services, and aid to families with dependent children programs. This act amended titles IV-B and XX of the Social Security Act.

Arise for Social Justice

Arise for Social Justice, a grassroots organization focused on furthering the rights of low-income people, was formed in 1985 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Founding members centered the early activism of the group around their shared identity as women on welfare. This group emerged during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, who repeatedly invoked the racialized trope of a black, single mother “welfare queen” to paint a picture of welfare recipients as lazy and undeserving of assistance from the government and to blame for their poverty. Their focus on welfare continued under Bill Clinton, who also used this characterization to support welfare reform with the substitution of TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) for AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children), which required welfare recipients to work or perform community service to receive care, excluded felons, and imposed limits on aid that wasn’t necessarily guaranteed. These presidential attitudes set the stage for other reforms in the state of Massachusetts, especially by governors Michael Dukakis and Bill Weld, and created the necessity for activism for survival of low-income women.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, or AACF, is a non-profit advocacy organization which encourages public policy in Arkansas that will benefit children and their families.

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families was founded in 1977 by attorney Hillary Rodham as a non-partisan 501(c)(3) group, and continues to be supported by a wide variety of individuals and organizations.


Clintonism is the political and economic policies of Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton as well as the era of his presidency in the United States.

The Democratic Leadership Council, a pro-Democratic Party establishment, argues that Clintonism "stands for economic growth and opportunity; for fiscal responsibility; for work, not welfare; for preventing crime and punishing criminals; and for non-bureaucratic, empowering government" and further says that these policies are key to the successes in the beginning of the 21st century.On the other hand, some critics of Clinton associate Clintonism with "coddling big money (except guns and tobacco), financial scandals, winning at any cost, flip-flopping and prevaricating".

Dandridge v. Williams

Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471 (1970), was a United States Supreme Court case based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. It held that a state can cap welfare based on the Aid to Families with Dependent Children at $250.00 per month regardless of the family's size or need. The plaintiffs were attempting to make the amount variable based on size.

Don I. Wortman

Don I. Wortman is a retired U.S. federal government administrator who served 27 years in senior-level executive positions in many federal government agencies. He was Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) from December 13, 1977 to October 4, 1978. In early 1977, while working at the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW)—precursor to the Department of Health and Human Services—he was Chairman of the task force for implementing the reorganization of HEW. This reorganization included the merging of the Medicare and Medicaid programs into a new agency; this agency was named the Health Care Financing Administration (and renamed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in June 2001). He became the first Administrator of the Health Care Financing Administration. On two occasions—6 months in 1975 and the first 3 months of 1977—he was Acting Administrator of the Social and Rehabilitation Services, the agency which, at that time, administered the Medicaid program and the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program.During President Gerald Ford’s administration in 1975-1976, Wortman played a major role in resettling 60,000 Vietnamese refugees in the U.S. (pursuant to the Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act). From 1965 to 1971, he worked at the Office of Economic Opportunity (federal anti-poverty program), where he helped launch Head Start, Upward Bound, and the Community Action Program.Other federal government agencies in which Wortman served as a senior-level executive include the Atomic Energy Commission, the Price Commission, and the Central Intelligence Agency, where he was the deputy director for administration. In several of these posts, he was directed to take over running them, as political appointees left for other positions. In this regard, he was an exemplar of the federal career Senior Executive Service whose members serve as elite executives and leaders who are expected to move between programs and agencies as issues and challenges arise. He was also unique in that, from 1967 until his retirement in 1981, he served in senior-level political appointee positions under both Republican and Democrat presidents.Following his retirement from the federal government in 1981, Wortman served as a consultant at the General Accounting Office (now known as the Government Accountability Office).In 1979, Wortman was elected as a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), which is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization chartered by Congress to assist government leaders in building more effective, efficient, accountable, and transparent organizations. In the early 1980s, he joined NAPA and became its Vice President and its Director of Federal Programs; he continued working at NAPA until 1995. During his time at NAPA, he led many management studies for a variety of federal agencies, studies which were designed to improve the performance of these agencies. In this capacity, he used his government experience and leadership skills to assist hundreds of federal executives.In honoring Wortman in November 2014, NAPA CEO and President, Dan G. Blair, stated, “At a time when public servants are often caught up in partisan bickering and cross currents in Washington, it is critically important to remember that these hardworking leaders are the ones who make the government work. It is therefore a great honor to recognize one of these public servants, Don Wortman, who served so many, in so many places over his long career.”Wortman grew up in Lakota, Iowa (born November 10, 1927). He received his bachelor's degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, his master's degree in public administration from the University of Minnesota, and attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces of the National Defense University from 1961 to 1962.

Executive waiver

An executive waiver is an administrative tool used by presidents of the United States, and other of its Federal executives, permitting the selective enforcement of some laws. The right of the president to delay implementation of certain provisions is normally written into a law, to provide flexibility that Congress cannot offer.Such waivers enhance presidential control of domestic policy. Waivers are sometimes used in grant programs to allow experimentation and flexibility. There is also an extraordinary circumstances waiver in Section 502b of the Foreign Assistance Act.Ronald Reagan's administration used waivers in dealing with the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program in the 1980s. President Bill Clinton also employed waivers to give state's flexibility in Welfare reform. Medicaid waivers have also been used. President Obama used executive waivers in 2015 to lift most sanctions on Iran in return for Iran not pursuing nuclear weapons.

Family Support Act

The Family Support Act of 1988 (Pub.L. 100–485, 102 Stat. 2343, enacted October 13, 1988) was a federal law that amended Title IV of the Social Security Act to revise the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program to emphasize work, child support and family benefits, as well as on withholding the wages of absentee parents. The Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training program (JOBS) was a welfare-to-work program created by the Family Support Act to replace the Work Incentive program (WIN).An Associated Press article said that the law "required teen mothers who receive public assistance to remain in high school and, in some cases, to live with their parents."

Flemming Rule

The Flemming Rule of 1960 was named after Arthur Flemming, who at the time was the head of United States' Department of Health and Human Services. The Flemming rule was an administrative ruling which decreed that U.S. states could not deny income assistance eligibility through the U.S. Aid to Families with Dependent Children program on the basis of a home being considered unsuitable per the woman's children being termed as illegitimate, a term for the status of a child born to parents who are unmarried to one another.

In 1960, the U.S. state of Louisiana expelled 23,000 children from its welfare program in what became known as the "Louisiana Incident." This was done because the children had been born outside of wedlock, and were considered illegitimate by the state. Similar types of welfare denial had occurred in other states. In response to this, the Louisiana Department of Health, Education and Welfare, administrator of the income assistance program, implemented the Flemming Rule.A 1997 article by Claudia Lawrence-Webb claimed that the child welfare system had problems fairly representing children of color and signified this problem was due to the Flemming Rule. Webb suggested that the rule was implemented poorly, which led to unnecessary negative consequences for African American children. In the article, Webb also discusses how the Flemming Rule may have influenced future policies.

General Assistance

General Assistance (also known as General Relief) is a term used in the United States to denote welfare programs that benefit adults without dependents (single persons, or less commonly, childless married couples) as opposed to families with children, who receive assistance from the federal program formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and, since 1996, officially known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

During the Great Depression, the principal welfare program known as Home Relief — established as part of the New Deal — made no distinction as to the presence or absence of children in a needy household, but in 1935 a distinct program for such households with children was spun off from the main program.

In later years, individual states were given broad discretion as to how much in benefits — and indeed, any benefits — need be paid to adults without dependent children; and the trend since the 1980s has been for states to sharply curtail, and even eliminate, such aid. As of 2005, only two states — New Jersey and Utah — still paid cash welfare benefits to childless adults deemed "able-bodied" (many other states do allow such payments to be made if a disability is demonstrated). In any event, the person(s) seeking General Assistance must first apply for any other programs — state or federal — for which alternate eligibility may or may not exist; only if all such applications are denied is the applicant then permitted to receive General Assistance benefits, which usually include food stamps, and often, assistance in paying for rental housing.

In some states, General Assistance programs are not universal, and the policies of different counties or cities therein may differ widely. California is such a state; San Francisco once paid the most generous benefits in the state, but these were drastically reduced after Gavin Newsom was elected mayor of that city in 2003, on a controversial platform known as "Care Not Cash."

Many jurisdictions use the alternate name "General Relief," including a large number of California counties (among them Los Angeles County), as well as the states of Iowa and Virginia. Alaska calls its program "General Relief Assistance."

Hidden welfare state

The hidden welfare state is a term coined by Christopher Howard, professor of government at the College of William and Mary, to refer to tax expenditures with social welfare objectives that are often not included in discussions about the U.S. welfare state. Howard's terminology implies that "visible" social welfare programs are designed to help the neediest, but the "hidden" programs often offer benefits to wealthier individuals and companies.

Programs that constitute the visible welfare state of direct expenditures include: Social Security, Medicare, and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC, now Temporary Assistance to Needy Families).

The hidden welfare state refers to tax expenditures (deductions) with social welfare objectives: tax deductions for retirement saving, charitable contributions, higher education, and the home mortgage interest deduction. All of these deductions benefit constituencies with considerable disposable income.Tax expenditures and direct expenditures essentially have the same effect on the federal budget. Direct expenditures represent the amount of money the government is paying out, whereas, tax expenditures represent the amount of money not collected by the government.

To better understand the concept of social welfare tax expenditures and how they are similar to direct expenditures, Edward Berkowitz gives the example of, “if a person owes $100 in taxes to the government and the government forgives the obligation on the condition that the person buy a health insurance policy, then the situation is the same as if the government itself spent the $100.” Each expenditure also targets a specific portion of the population in an effort to give the selected population some type of relief.

Jo Anne B. Barnhart

Jo Anne Bryant Barnhart (born 1950) was the 14th Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, filling a six-year term of office that ran through January 19, 2007.

King v. Smith

King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309 (1968), was a decision in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) could not be withheld because of the presence of a "substitute father" who visited a family on weekends. The issue before the US Supreme Court involved how the states could determine how to implement a federal program. The court used the term "co-operative federalism."

Lerman ratio

The Lerman ratio, named after economist Robert I. Lerman, suggest that a government benefit to the underemployed, such as welfare, will presumably reduce their overall hours of work. The ratio of the actual increase in income compared to the benefit is the Lerman ratio, which is ordinarily between zero and one. Moffitt (1992) estimates it in regard to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in the US at about .625.

Office of Production Management

The Office of Production Management was a United States Government agency that existed from January 1941 to centralize direction of federal procurement programs and quasi-war production during the period immediately proceeding the United States' involvement in World War II. After the United States formally entered World War II, the War Production Board superseded the Office of Production Management in January 1942 and the office ceased to exist shortly thereafter. It was established and distestablished by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute is a liberal American think tank. According to the organization, it exists "to carry forward the legacy and values of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt by developing progressive ideas and bold leadership in the service of restoring America’s promise of opportunity for all." It is headquartered in New York, New York.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF ) is one of the United States of America's federal assistance programs. It began on July 1, 1997, and succeeded the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, providing cash assistance to indigent American families through the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This cash benefit is often referred to simply as "welfare."

The TANF program, emphasizing the welfare-to-work principle, is a grant given to each state to run their own welfare program and designed to be temporary in nature and has several limits and requirements. The TANF grant has a maximum benefit of two consecutive years and a five-year lifetime limit and requires that all recipients of welfare aid must find work within two years of receiving aid, including single parents who are required to work at least 30 hours per week opposed to 35 or 55 required by two parent families. Failure to comply with work requirements could result in loss of benefits. TANF funds may be used for the following reasons: to provide assistance to needy families so that children can be cared for at home; to end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work and marriage; to prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies; and to encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families (Smith, 2010).

Theodore J. Marchand

Theodore J. Marchand is an African-American politician. He served as a Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 1972 to 1976. He was arrested and charged with criminal mischief over allegations that he "verbally assaulted officers and beat on the police vehicle in a manner to be a threat" in 1973, but released on a $500 bond. In 1975, he proposed the additional funding of US$3 million to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which was approved by the House.

Welfare rights

Welfare rights means the rights of people to be aware of and receive their maximum entitlement to state welfare benefits, and to be treated reasonably well by the welfare system. It has been established in the United Kingdom since 1969 and has also been developed in other countries including Ireland, Australia and the United States. It became necessary because of the complexity of the UK social security system and had links at the time with a growing Claimants Union movement. As local authorities realized the advantages of having well-informed front-line staff such as housing officers and social workers, who often have to deal with benefit queries as part of their wider tasks, they turned to welfare rights staff to provide that expertise for both training and handling complex cases. In the 1980s, as local authorities took on the wider 'equalities' agenda, anti-poverty work was seen as a valid local activity in itself. Increasing benefit income helps individuals but also boosts the local economy.

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