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Welfare Reform Report Card

In 1996, Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed a reform measure called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) ending the national entitlement to welfare for families with dependent children. Since each state implemented welfare reform differently, a natural experiment started that would allow researchers to discover welfare policies that help people become financially independent and escape poverty.

In 2008, The Heartland Institute published the first and only state-by-state analysis of the success of TANF. Titled State Welfare Report Card 2008: Welfare Reform After Ten Years and written by Gary MacDougal, Kate Campaigne, and Dane Wendell, it compiled extensive data on five policies and five performance outcomes for state welfare and anti-poverty programs and assigns a final grade and rank to each state on the strength of the welfare reform policies it has adopted.

The 2008 report card revealed that welfare reform was a major success, reducing welfare rolls as well as poverty and increasing work by welfare recipients. It also revealed significant differences in how states responded to the opportunity to reform their welfare systems and in the results.

In March 2015, The Heartland Institute released an updated version of the report card titled 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card written by Diane Carol Bast, Matthew Glans, Gary MacDougal, and Logan Pike. Like the first edition of the report card, the new report provided one-page summaries quickly identify the strengths and weaknesses of each state’s programs and give governors and legislators an easy-to-comprehend and promote reform agenda.

South Dakota ranked first in its welfare reform policies in the 2015 report, followed by Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Wisconsin. Missouri ranked last (as it did in 2008). Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont also received grades of F.

The 2015 report card includes 50 one-page “report cards” summarizing anti-poverty performance and welfare reform policies in every state. On this website you can download the complete 2008 and 2015 report cards using the links below. The web version of each report card has a second page explaining the study’s methodology and what the state needs to do to improve its grades.

Effective welfare reform can save lives and produce positive effects on multiple generations. It can save taxpayers billions of dollars and help address such serious social maladies as crime, alcoholism, and teenage pregnancy. For these and other reasons, we hope you will devote some small amount of time to help us get this valuable study into the hands of policymakers and opinion leaders.

You can find the Executive Summary of the 2015 Report Card here.

You can find the full 104-page 2015 Report Card text here.

Heartland Institute Issues 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card

Missouri Earns 'F' Grade on 2015 Welfare Reform Report Card

You can find the Executive Summary of the 2009 Report Card here.

You can find the full 2009 Report Card text here.

Author Biographies:

Diane Carol Bast is executive editor of The Heartland Institute. She edits and oversees the production of all Heartland publications. She has edited or written more than  150 studies and 20 books on state and local public policy.

Matthew Glans  is senior policy analyst of The Heartland Institute. He holds a master’s degree in political studies from the University of Illinois  at  Springfield  and  a  Bachelor  of  Arts  degree  in  political science from Bradley University. Before coming to Heartland, Glans worked  for  the  Illinois  Department  of  Healthcare  and  Family Services in its legislative affairs office in Springfield.

Gary  MacDougal is  a  policy  advisor  to  The  Heartland  Institute, author  of   Make  a  Difference:  A  Spectacular  Breakthrough  in  the Fight Against Poverty  (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000, revised edition 2005), and former chairman of the Illinois governor’s Task Force for Human Services Reform. During the past decade he has consulted with governors, legislators, and public administrators in Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota on reforming welfare programs and improving human services.

Logan Pike is state government relations manager for The Heartland Institute. She is a graduate of Florida State University with Bachelor of Science degrees in political science and international affairs.

Press coverage of the 2015 Report Card:

Failing Grade in Welfare Reform Alarms Missouri Legislators - March 19, 2015 - Columbian Missourian 

Legislature's 'Welfare Reform' is as Silly as it is Mean - March 19, 2015 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Missouri Ranks Last in Welfare Reform - March 19, 2015 - Ozarks First

Reform Report Puts Missouri at Bottom - March 19, 2015 - Connect Mid Missouri

Heartland Institute Gives Missouri Grade 'F,' in National Welfare Rankings - March 19, 2015 - NBC Affiliate, KSHB-TV

Local Lawmaker Says Missouri Deserves Failing Grade on Welfare Reform - March 19, 2015 - NBC Affiliate, KY3-TV

Proposed Bill Could Shorten the Eligibility Period for Welfare - March 19, 2015 - NBC Affiliate, KOMU-TV

Massachusetts Gets a Failing Grade for Welfare Reform - March 19, 2015 - NBC Affiliate, WWLP-TV

Heartland Institute says Missouri has Lowest 'Welfare Reform' Grades - March 20, 2015 - News Tribune

Study Reveals the Seven States with ‘Failing’ Welfare Programs - March 20, 2015 - Breitbart

Logan Pike and Justin Haskins: R.I. welfare system gets an 'F' - March 20, 2015 - Providence Journal

State Rep. Diane Franklin Discusses Welfare Reform - March 20, 2015 - Lebanon Daily Record

Seven states that deserve an ‘F’ for their welfare programs - March 26, 2015 - The Hill

Op-Ed: Texas’ Welfare Rolls Shrink, Rick Perry Deserves Praise - March 28, 2015 - Breitbart Texas

Senate Focuses on Getting More Welfare Recipients Working - March 29, 2015 - MetroWest Daily News

Gov. Nixon can save Missouri’s failing welfare system, but he won’t - April 1, 2015 - The Washington Times

More Welfare Reform is Needed in Mississippi - January 26, 2016 - The Heartland Blog

Georgia Is Moving Forward on Welfare Reform - March 8, 2016 - Valdosta Today

Alabama's welfare program is a decade behind most of the country - April 14, 2016 -

Maine is Leading the Nation in Welfare Reform - June 21, 2016 - Townhall