Listen To The Story


MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Welfare reform will be 10 years old next week. Researchers wanted to measure how the program's doing after a decade. It turns out, there's not a whole lot of data to work with. From the Work and Family Desk, Marketplace's Hillary Wicai reports.

HILLARY WICAI: researches at the Brookings Institution tried to track the $26 billion a year the federal government spends on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

In the three states they studied, less than a third went to cash assistance — what we used to call welfare.

In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Ohio, the bulk of the money goes to child-care and other work supports. But it isn't followed.

Shawn Fremstad co-authored the report.

SHAWN FREMSTAD: "It's almost like the measurements they chose were for another time when the issue was whether or not they were doing activities. And so the only thing they measure is people who are actually receiving cash assistance."

Fremstad says we know the money's being spent on needy working families; we just don't know — 10 years into welfare reform — if they're getting the help they need.

In Washington, I'm Hillary Wicai for Marketplace.