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Welfare Reform, Work-Family Tradeoffs, and Child Well-Being*


  • Andrew S. London,

    Corresponding author
      **Dr. Andrew London, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, 426 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244 (
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  • Ellen K. Scott,

  • Kathryn Edin,

  • Vicki Hunter

  • *

    An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 22nd Annual Research Conference of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Seattle, Washington, November 2–4, 2000. This paper was written with support from MDRC's Next Generation Project. Data were collected under the auspices of MDRC's Project on Devolution and Urban Change. We thank Gordon Berlin, Barbara Goldman, Robert Granger, and our national collaborators on both projects for their support of this work. We also thank Susan Clampet-Lundquist, Averil Clarke, Lorna Dilley, Ralonda Ellis-Hill, Karen Fierer, Tasheika Hinson, Rebecca Joyce Kissane, Leondra Mitchell, Samieka Mitchell, Keesha Moore, Kagendo Mutua, Laura Nichols, Enid Schatz, and Sarah Spain, who worked with us to recruit the samples and complete the interviews. Susan Clampet-Lundquist and Rebecca Joyce Kissane also provided substantial assistance with the coding and analysis of data from Philadelphia. We thank Martha Bonney for editorial assistance, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Finally, although unnamed, we thank the women who shared their stories with us; each in her way contributed to making this paper possible.

**Dr. Andrew London, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University, 426 Eggers Hall, Syracuse, NY 13244 (


Welfare reform and related policy changes have altered the context in which welfare-reliant women make choices about employment and family care. Using data from longitudinal qualitative interviews, we examined women's experiences of work-family tradeoffs and how they think their employment affected their children. Women identified multiple co-occurring costs and benefits of work for themselves and their children. Benefits included: increased income; increased self-esteem, feelings of independence, and social integration; and the ability to model work and self-sufficiency values for children. Costs included: working without increased income; overload, exhaustion, and stress; and less time and energy to be with, supervise, and support children. The relevance of these findings for family policy specialists and practitioners who work with low-income families is discussed.

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