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Abstract

For the last thirty years, there has been widespread agreement that the nation's welfare system should be reformed to make it more consistent with basic public values endorsing the primacy of family and the importance of work. There has been disagreement, however, about specific proposals, and resistance to providing the funds needed for large-scale reform. This Article discusses the three approaches state and federal governments can use to reduce welfare and encourage work: (1) making welfare less attractive; (2) making welfare a reciprocal obligation; and (3) making work more attractive. It concludes that a combined strategy, which links welfare-to-work program mandates with increased rewards for low-wage work, offers promise. As a new Administration committed to change shapes and implements its agenda, the trade-offs and lessons from the past provide guidance on how to translate a vision of reform into a concrete program that will better meet multiple policy objectives and produce institutional change.

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