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Journal Issue: Welfare to Work Volume 7 Number 1 Spring 1997

Introduction to the AFDC Program
Stephen B. Page Mary B. Larner


This journal issue discusses the policy challenges of helping parents move from welfare to work. As a foundation, this introductory article explains the federal-state program of cash assistance called Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), to which the term welfare refers in most of these articles. While a number of other social programs are sometimes included under the umbrella of welfare—such as the Supplemental Security Income program for the disabled, food stamps, and Medicaid—the program that has drawn the most public scrutiny and negative attention, and the centerpiece of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, is AFDC. This article explains the basic structure of the AFDC program, including eligibility criteria and benefits; discusses the characteristics of families that have received AFDC; describes trends in the program's size and cost from the 1970s to 1996; and indicates the major ways in which the block grant established in the 1996 welfare reform legislation compares to the AFDC program that it replaced.