Data: Making It


Three years have passed since Congress helped President Clinton keep his promise to end welfare as we know it. In the meantime, nearly 2 million Americans have left the dole to join someone's payroll. Many Washington-based researchers are busy studying what went wrong–wrong, that is, with predictions that people would be left destitute. Nobody is working harder than the Urban Institute, which is assiduously tracking not only former welfare recipients but also other low-income Americans. Some of its findings have been widely reported, particularly the unsurprising discovery that women with young children leave welfare rolls for entry-level jobs, that they have a hard time coordinating child care, and that the majority feel they are barely getting by. Two other facts turned up by the same research are much less likely to make it into print: Former welfare recipients earn more than similarly situated women who never signed up for the dole, and the overwhelming majority report that life is better in spite of the economic hardships they face.