Journal Issue: Welfare to Work Volume 7 Number 1 Spring 1997
Efforts to Supplement Family Income
Running parallel with efforts to increase the work effort of welfare recipients, federal policymakers have, since the 1960s, attempted to alleviate family poverty by supplementing income through less restrictive methods than the AFDC program. Examples include the negative income tax, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), child support assurance, and the Food Stamp Program. The tension discussed earlier between support for the poor and an emphasis on self-reliance affected the political fates of these initiatives, as well.
For example, Presidents Nixon and Carter unsuccessfully put forward negative income tax proposals that would have replaced the welfare system with small income guarantees that did not depend on family structure. Liberals criticized the proposals for providing too little income to families, while conservatives were concerned that any guaranteed income proposal would weaken the work ethic by widening the pool of families eligible for the subsidy.2,10,18 A tax-based program that proved to be far more popular among liberals and conservatives was the Earned Income Tax Credit.19 First enacted in 1975 and significantly expanded in the 1980s and 1990s, the EITC provides refundable offsets to income taxes for low-income workers with dependents, operating alongside AFDC as a response to family poverty. Along with initiatives promoting employment, these and related efforts to identify less stigmatizing ways of delivering on the AFDC promise to support poor children have shaped the recent history of welfare reform.20