The welfare system has been transformed over the past two decades, notably through the introduction of stricter work requirements and time limits on cash assistance in the 1990s. At the same time, government at both the federal and the state level invested in offering financial work supports of unprecedented scope to low-income parents. A top priority on the national agenda was to understand how these changes in the safety net — and sharp rises in employment, particularly among single parents — are affecting children.
Long before the federal welfare reforms of 1996 drew attention to this question, MDRC — in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and other government, foundation, and research partners — was systematically gathering data about children in its studies of pioneering efforts to promote employment among low-income parents. These studies laid the groundwork for the Next Generation project — a collaboration that began in 1999, involving MDRC, several other leading research institutions, and the project’s foundation funding partners. Drawing on 10 studies by MDRC of welfare, antipoverty, and employment policies piloted as early as the 1980s and widely adopted since then, Next Generation is synthesizing and reanalyzing data to learn how programs targeted at parents' economic circumstances affect children’s school performance, behavior, and health, as well as measures of family well-being.