Welfare is one of America's most important social policies aimed at helping the poor. Most of the current poor come from poor neighborhoods where dilapidated living conditions and deteriorating neighborhoods shape failure. Young people are cheated of the basic foundation from which to grow because of the lack of jobs available to their parents, forcing them into the welfare system. Although not all welfare recipients live in urban areas, most do and it is important to examine the current welfare system and the direction it is heading toward in order to improve the conditions of our poor citizens.
Over the last five years, welfare caseloads have become predominantly urban according to a report done by the Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. While welfare caseloads have dropped and some studies suggest that poverty has been reduced since the enactment of welfare reform five years ago, many cities are still struggling to help welfare recipients move into and stay in the workforce. Cities face unique challenges to welfare reform, including having a greater share of the nation's welfare caseloads, being home to the hardest to serve, and now confronting an economic recession that further threatens low-income workers.
As welfare rolls fall, families that rely on government assistance are increasingly concentrated in big cities. Nearly three in every five people on welfare can be found in the 100 largest U.S. cities. Welfare recipients are becoming clustered in big cities and many are being racially isolated, with African Americans and Hispanics accounting for a growing share of the families who remain on rolls.
Between 1994 and 2000, the proportion of the nation's welfare families that live in the 100 largest cities rose significantly from 47 percent to 58 percent. Moving these people off welfare is more difficult in these big cities rather than in the suburbs. In these cities many families face a shortage of entry-level jobs, poverty-ridden neighborhoods where education and work experience is limited, and poor mass transportation to the suburbs, where jobs seem to be more abundant.