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Keywords:

  • poverty;
  • welfare;
  • income regimes;
  • government capacity;
  • devolution

This paper has two objectives. First, we examine state adoption and implementation of income support policies under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. We develop a composite measure of income support that includes welfare programs that scholars traditionally investigate and adds optional policies that encourage independence through work. Second, we engage a substantive focus on the administrative ability and willingness of states to adopt and implement sophisticated income support policies. We investigate the extent to which state government professionalism, ideology, economic resources, and racially based policies have shaped state policy. We find that the percentage of the state population is liberal; state racial demographics and governmental professionalism are critical determinants of state welfare and income support regimes. Significantly, we find no evidence that states are converging toward high-quality, effectively financed welfare policies or income regime policies to help the poor move into and economically survive in the job market.