This is an opportune time to examine the economic status of families with children. The 109th Congress faces a decision on what terms to continue the major cash welfare program for children (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families —TANF) and entitlement child care funding. Congress may also consider making changes in social security, which now makes monthly payments to almost 4 million children whose breadwinner is dead, disabled, or aged.
Since enactment of TANF in 1996, family cash welfare rolls have fallen by more than 50%, the employment rates of single mothers in the general population have risen dramatically, and the number of poor children has declined by more than 1 million. However, the data show that “full-time working poverty” has increased overall among families with children.
The social safety net for children consists of (1) earnings-based social insurance benefits and tax credits and (2) need-based transfers of cash and noncash benefits. In 2003, the House voted that the (overarching) purpose of TANF should be to “improve child well-being.” This report profiles the economic well-being of children. It presents data on official poverty among children and employment rates of mothers. It discusses 2003 child poverty rates in detail: by family type, by work experience and education of the family head, and by immigration status of the family head. Lastly, it provides a brief background discussion about government “safety net” policy. (author abstract)