The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 ("Act") (Public Law 104-193) was signed into law by President Clinton on August 22, 1996. The new law ends the federal guarantee of cash assistance to the poor and replaces the 61 -year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and its education, work, and training program (JOBS) with capped block grants to states, giving states a large amount of discretion to design their own programs. The law creates a single cash welfare block grant - Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) - to replace AFDC and other related programs and imposes a general five-year time limit on the duration of benefits. After two years, the law requires individuals to work in order to receive benefits. The Act is to take effect July 1. 1997 (some major provisions, including the end of AFDC, take effect October 1, 1996). However, states will be allowed to continue waiver-based programs that were approved before enactment, even if provisions of the state programs are inconsistent with the new law. Approximately 40 states have waivers which have been approved by the federal government.
The relationship between teenage pregnancy and welfare is complex and will be discussed later on in this memorandum. However, it is clear that supporters of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 view out-of-wedlock births, especially those to teenagers, as "both a central cause of welfare dependency and a direct result of the 'culture' it creates".1 References to out-of-wedlock births and teenage pregnancy exist throughout the legislation including in the Act's statement of purpose and findings. Specific provisions dealing with teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births include:
While much emphasis is placed on reducing out-of-wedlock and teen pregnancies, the 20-year-old mandate that states make family planning services (to prevent/reduce the incidence of births out of wedlock) available to welfare recipients is deleted. Under the Act, states may spend a portion of their block grant money on "prepre-nancy family planning services" while spending on other medical services (i.e. abortion) is prohibited.
A number of findings included in the Act relate to teenage pregnancy and out-of-wedlock childbearing. Some of the findings are included here. For a complete list of findings please see Appendix A.
The stated purpose of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Block Grant program is to increase the flexibility of States in operating a program designed to 1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; 2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage; 3) prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and establish annual numerical goals for preventing and reducing the incidence of these pregnancies; and 4) encourage the formation and maintenance of two parent families.
States that are most successful in meeting the legislation's stated goals will be eligible for a total of $1 billion in performance bonuses (about $200 million yearly) from fiscal year 1999 to 2003. State performance is to be measured by a formula developed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the National Governors' Association and the American Public Welfare Association.
In order to be eligible for the block grant program a State must submit to the Secretary of HHS a written document that outlines how the State intends to establish goals and take action to prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, with special emphasis on teenage pregnancies, and establish numerical goals for reducing the illegitimacy ratio of the State for calendar years 1996 through 2005. The "illegitimacy ratio" is defined as the number of out-of-wedlock births that occurred in the State divided by the number of births. In calculating grants, the Secretary must disregard any difference in illegitimacy ratios or abortion attributable to a change in State methods of reporting data.
The Act provides a bonus to the five states that demonstrate the greatest net decrease in out-of-wedlock births for the fiscal years 1999, 2000, 200 1, and 2002. In order to be eligible to receive a bonus grant a State must demonstrate that the number of out-of-wedlock births that occurred in the State during the most recent 2-year period for which such information is available decreased as compared to the number of such births that occurred during the previous 2-year period. In addition, a State's abortion rate for the fiscal year must be less than the abortion rate in the State for fiscal year 1995. If five states are eligible for a grant in a bonus year the grant will be $20,000,000. If there are fewer than five eligible states for a bonus year, the amount of the grant will be $25,000,000.
The new law gives states the option to deny welfare benefits to unwed teenage parents under age 18. States may not use federal grant funds to provide assistance to unmarried parents under age 18 who have a child at least 12 weeks of age and did not complete high school unless they attend high school or an alternative educational or training program. Unmarried teenage parents must also live with a parent or in another adult-supervised setting such as a "second-chance home". States may, under certain circumstances, use federal funds to assist teenage parents in locating and providing payment for a second-chance home or other adult-supervised living arrangement.
Current law requires that states provide family planning services to all AFDC recipients who request them. (The Secretary of Health and Human Services will reduce AFDC payments by one percent for failure to offer and provide family planning services to those requesting them.) The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 does not contain this provision. Instead, states are prohibited from using any part of the grant to provide "medical services." States may, however, use federal funds to provide "prepregnancy family planning services".
The new law requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and implement, no later than January 1, 1997, a strategy to: 1) prevent out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancies, and 2) assure that at least 25 percent of the communities in the United States have teenage pregnancy prevention programs in place. The Secretary is required to report to Congress no later than June 30, 1998, and annually thereafter, on the progress that has been made in meetings the two goals.
Note: No funds are appropriated for this purpose.
The Act requires the Attorney General to establish and implement, no later than January 1, 1997, a program that: 1) studies the linkage between statutory rape and teenage pregnancy, particularly by predatory older men committing repeat offenses; and 2) educates State and local criminal law enforcement officers on the prevention and prosecution of statutory rape, focusing in particular on the commission of statutory rape by predatory older men committing repeat offenses, and any links to teenage pregnancy.
The Attorney General is also required to ensure that the Department of Justice's Violence Against Women Initiative addresses the issue of statutory rape by predatory older men committing repeat offenses.
Note: No funds are appropriated for this purpose.
The Act appropriates $50 million (in the form of a capped entitlement, referred to as Section 5 10, under the auspices of the Matemal and Child Health block grant) for each of fiscal years 1998-2002 for grants to states for abstinence education programs and "at the option of the State, where appropriate, mentoring, counseling, and adult supervision to promote abstinence from sexual activity, with a focus on those groups which are most likely to bear children out-of-wedlock." "Abstinence education" refers to an educational or motivational program which:
The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant's (Title V of the Social Security Act) state matching requirement will apply to the abstinence funds (requiring three state dollars for every four federal dollars). If a state chooses not to draw down the funds they will go back to the Treasury (as opposed to being redistributed among participating states).
The funds will be distributed according to the following formula: the number of poor children in a state/number of poor children in the nation. No mitigating factors or issues will be considered. (Please see Appendix B for the list of state allocations for FY 1998 under Section 510.) The Office of State and Community Health in the Matemal and Child Health Bureau of HHS is responsible for drafting requirements and providing guidance to states with respect to the abstinence provision. These guidelines are expected to be completed by January, 1997. A draft of the guidelines may be available sooner. It is expected, however, that the federal role with respect to this provision will be kept to a minimum, leaving interpretation of the narrowly-drawn provision to the states. In the meantime, states should examine their current programs in light of the abstinence language in order to deten-nine if they will be applicable for funding under the new program.
The new law denies legal immigrants who arrive after the law's enactment most federal means-tested public benefits for five years. Federal public benefits include: any grant, contract, loan, professional or commercial license, and any retirement, welfare, health, disability, food assistance, unemployment or similar benefit provided by an agency or appropriated funds of the United States. Exceptions to the five-year limited eligibility provision include emergency medical services, non-cash emergency disaster relief, school lunch and nutrition benefits, immunizations and testing and treatment of communicable diseases, foster care and adoption payments under parts B and E of Title IV of the Social Security Act, community programs necessary for the protection. of life or safety, certain means-tested elementary and secondary education programs, Head Start, the Job Training Partnership Act, and programs of student assistance under titles IV, V, IX, and X of the Higher Education Act of 1965, and titles 111, VII, and VIII of the Public Health Services Act. All legal immigrants, regardless of entry date, are denied Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and food stamps until they have become citizens or have worked for 10 years. States are also given the option of denying Medicaid, cash assistance, and Title XX social services until they become citizens or have worked for 10 years.
Family planning organizations are concerned that legal immigrants will no longer be eligible to receive Title X family planning services, which are offered to low-income individuals according to a sliding fee schedule. It is not clear how far the restrictions on means-tested public benefits will go and whether Title X services will be included. However, if, in fact Title X family planning services are denied to low-income immigrants the birthrate of teen and unwed mothers may actually increase.
The Act requires the Secretary of HHS to conduct research on the benefits, effects, and costs of operating different State programs funded under TANF, including time limits relating to eligibility for assistance. "The research shall include studies on the effects of different programs and the operation of such programs on welfare dependency, illegitimacy, teen pregnancy, employment rates, child well-being, and any other area the Secretary deems appropriate." The Secretary is also required to annually rank state out-of-wedlock ratios for families that receive TANF benefits. Based on this ranking, the Secretary is to review the programs of the five states ranked the highest and the five states ranked the lowest in the nation. There are no bonuses or penalties associated with this section.
The link between teenage pregnancy and welfare dependency is well documented. What is not clear, however, is the extent to which the two are related in a causal way. Does the existence of welfare inadvertently foster teenage pregnancy? Or is teenage pregnancy responsible for welfare dependency? The sponsors of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 believe that both are true, and the legislation targets teen pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births.
The increasing number of births to unmarried women in this country has focused a great deal of attention on the problem of teenage pregnancy and childbearing. The rate of nonmarital birth in 1993 was more than six times the rate in 1940, and the proportion of births that occur outside of marriage has risen from 4 to 31 percent.2 Contrary to popular belief, however, only 30 percent of all out-of-wedlock births in the United States occur to teenagers. Thirty-five percent of out-of-wedlock births are to women aged 20-24, while 35 percent are to women 25 and older.3 But while teenage childbearing should not be viewed as synonymous with out-of-wedlock births, adolescence does appear to be the time In life that most unmarried women start having children. Today, teen mothers make up the largest single croup (47.8%) of all first births to unmarried women. In 1992, more than half of unmarried women who had a baby had given birth previously.4
Surprisingly, however, teen birth rates are lower today than they were in 1960. In 1960, 89 out of 1000 women ages 15-19 had a child. In 1992, the rate had decreased to 61 per 1000 births. But while birth rates to teens have not increased in recent years, births rates to unmarried teens have tripled. In 1960, 15 per 1000 births occurred to unmarried women aged 15-19. In 1992, the rate had increased to 45 per 1000 births.5 It is this statistic, along with increasing rates of child poverty and the rising cost of public assistance, which has prompted legislators to take action.
Every year in this country, almost one million teenagers (approximately 10 percent of all 15 - to 19-year-old women) become pregnant. One-third of these pregnancies result in abortion, 14 percent in miscarriage, and 52 percent in birth. Of the half a million teenagers who give birth each year, 72 percent are not married and 175,000 are 17 years old or younger.6 These young women and their children are particularly vulnerable to severe adverse social and economic consequences. Their weak educational and skill levels, low rates of marriage, and inadequate support from nonresident fathers of their children make it extremely difficult to provide for their children. Very few will complete high school before their child is born. During the first 13 years of parenthood, teenage mothers earn an average of approximately $5,600 a year, less than half the poverty level. These women spend much of their young adult years (ages 19 to 30) as single parents (fewer than half of them will get married within 10 years). And only a small percentage of the fathers of children born to teenage mothers will provide any ongoing financial support for their children.7
A recent report estimated that teenage childbearing costs taxpayers $6.9 billion annually. This estimate includes: $2.2 billion in welfare and food stamp benefits; $1.5 billion in increased medical care expenses; $1.3 billion in lost tax revenue (due to the effect of teenage childbearing on the fathers' work patterns); $ 1.0 billion in increased incarceration expenses (the teenage sons of adolescent mothers are reportedly 2.7 times more likely to end up in prison); and $0.9 billion in additional foster care (an estimated 5 percent of children of teenage mothers end up in foster care).8
Although teenagers make up only a small fraction of the welfare caseload, many older women on welfare had their first child as teenagers. In 1992, women under the age of 20 made up only eight percent of AFDC cases, but 52 percent of the mothers on AFDC had their first children as teenagers.9 Data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth shows that almost half of all teenage mothers began receiving AFDC within five years of the birth of their first child. And over three-fourths of unmarried adolescent mothers began receiving AFDC within five years of the birth of their first child."10
A recent study of the Survey of Income and Pro-ram Participation (SIPP) by Nicholas Zill found that 55 percent of AFDC mothers were teenagers at the birth of their first child compared to 31 percent of non-AFDC mothers. The study also found that 44 percent of AFDC mothers were unmarried teens at the time of their first birth while only 17 percent of non-AFDC mothers were unmarried teens at the time of their first birth."11
The evidence indicates that teenage childbearing often results in welfare dependency but does the existence of welfare promote teenage and out-of-wedlock childbearing? Many argue that welfare plays an important role in a woman's childbearing decisions and that reducing or eliminating benefits would reduce the number of out-of-wedlock births substantially. Researcher Charles Murray maintains that welfare has promoted out-of-wedlock childbearing because it reimburses young women for having children and relieves fathers and other family members of financial responsibility.12 Others disagree, arguing that young women do not consider the financial implications of their childbearing and that most pregnancies of young women are unintended. In addition, they point to the lack of correlation between the amount of a state's AFDC benefit and the state's nonmarital teen birth rate.
If women do consider welfare as a financial incentive to have children, we would expect to see women in higher benefit states having more children out-of-wedlock. State comparisons have shown, however, that out-of-wedlock births are more common in states with lower benefit levels.13 While these comparisons may have some flaws in terms of controlling for differences among women and differences among states, many studies using different data sets and methodologies have come up with a relatively consistent finding: "white women living in states with higher welfare benefit levels are a little more likely to have children out-of-wedlock than white women living in lower benefit states. But nonmarital births among black and Hispanic women are not significantly correlated with the Generosity of welfare."14 Studies which have examined the impact of welfare on subsequent births have not found a connection between childbearing decisions and welfare benefits either. However, New Jersey began denying benefit increases to welfare recipients who have additional children while on welfare. Studies which examine this policy may yield different results. Although researchers have not found welfare benefits to influence the childbearing decisions of young women, they have found that in some cases welfare does deter marriage. Young mothers and pregnant women are slightly less likely to marry in states with higher welfare benefits."15
Another common argument against welfare is that it allows teenage mothers to set up separate households and gain independence from their families (and a responsible adult) while becoming dependent. In reality, however, very few welfare mothers under age 18 set up separate households. According to the 1990 census, 58 percent of these women live with their parents. Eighteen percent live alone with their children. Twelve percent live with a spouse, and 12 percent live with other adults, which can include cohabiting partners. Older teens (18 and 19) are more likely to live alone with their children (46 percent) and less likely to live with a parent (33 percent).16
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996 contains a number of provisions which require states to come up with (if they have not already) goals, plans and actions to reduce out-of-wedlock births and teen pregnancy. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy hopes to work with states and communities to identify available means for accomplishing the goals set out in the new law. A paper on effective teen pregnancy prevention programs is being prepared by the Campaign's Task Force on Effective Programs and Research and will be made available upon its completion.17 The Campaign's Task Force on State and Local Action will work closely with communities across the nation as they develop and implement their own plans and programs.
While we do not know if the new law will be successful in reducing teen pregnancy, it should lay some important groundwork. The welfare law provides a strong incentive to invest funds in reducing welfare dependency by preventing out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy and encouraging delayed childbearing. Under the block grant, states will be given the opportunity to experiment with teenage pregnancy prevention as well as an incentive to be successful. States that are successful in reducing out-of-wedlock teen pregnancy will be eligible for both "Illegitimacy" and performance bonuses. Furthermore, by stemming the flow of young women to welfare, states can free up resources which can then be invested in helping those already on the rolls and eventually reduce state caseloads.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
Direct Dial 202-857-8544
|District of Columbia||120,439|
|Grants to States||$50,000,000|
Source: Levin-Epstein, Jodie. Key Teen Parent Provisions: 1996 Welfare Law. Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy. Forthcoming.
Brown, Sarah S. and Leon Eisenberg, (ed). The Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families. Institute of Medicine. Washington, D.C., 1995.
Brown, Sarah S. "What Works? The Mantra of the 1990s." The American Enterprise Institute Conference on Evaluating Sex Education and Abstinence Programs. October, 1996.
Haskins, Ron and Carol Statuto Bevan. "Implementing the Abstinence Education Provision of the Welfare Reform Legislation." The American Enterprise Institute Conference on Evaluating Sex Education and Abstinence Programs. October, 1996.
Levin-Epstein, Jodie. Key Teen Parent Provisions: 1996 Welfare Law. Washington, D.C.: Center for Law and Social Policy. Forthcoming.
Maynard, Rebecca (ed). Kids Having Kids: A Robin Hood Foundation Special Report on the Costs of Adolescent Childbearing, The Robin Hood Foundation, New York, 1996.
Moore, Kristin A. and Nancy Snyder. "Facts At A Glance. Child Trends, Inc. January, 1996.
Moore, Kristin A., et al. Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Programs: Interventions and Evaluations. Child Trends. Washington, D.C. June, 1995.
Report to Congress on Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing. Department of Health and Human Services, Hyattsville, Maryland. September. 1995.
Sawhill, Isabel V. (ed). Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the Issues. Washington, D.C.: The Urban Institute, 1995.
Sex and America's Teenagers. The Alan Guttmacher Institute. New York: Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1994.
Sonenstein. Freya L. and Gregory Acs, "Teenage Childbearing: The Trends and Their Implications." In Welfare Reform: An Analysis of the Issues. Isabel V. Sawhill (ed). The Urban Institute, 1995, pp. 47-50.
Wasem, Ruth Ellen. "Welfare Reform: Adolescent Pregnancy Issues." Congressional Research Service. July 10, 1996.