Implementing the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996

A First Look

By Richard P. Nathan & Thomas L. Gais

Subjects: American Government
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9780914341635, 88 pages, January 1999

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Table of contents

1. Methodology

2. Three S's--Signals, Services, Sanctions

3. The New Political Economy of Welfare

4. New Players: The Growing Role of Employment Bureaucracies

5. Processes as Signals

6. The New Tools of Welfare


Personal Responsibility Agreements


7. New Distributions of Power: Reform and Second-Order Devolution


Recipients of New Power--Diverse, Complex and Often Nonprofit


8. Varieties of Welfare Cultures

9. The Special Challenge of Information Systems

10. Conclusions and Implications

11. Next Steps, Targeted Research


Follow-up Research: Priority Areas
Other Areas


Appendix A: State Field Research Team Leaders

Appendix B: First-Round Report Form

About the Authors

Examines the implementation of the 1996 national welfare reform act and summarizes field-research findings.


Focusing on what happens to national policies after they are made, the authors discover that there are surprises in the implementation of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act and its connections to other social agencies and programs. Bureaucracies typically don't change this much and this fast. Why did it happen this time around? The book highlights three S's to encapsulate the changes that are occurring—Signals, Services, Sanctions. Emphasis is placed on "second-order devolution," the crucial role of front-line workers, the relationship between employment services and cash payment systems, varieties in goal clusters among the states and locally, the new role of "diversion" before welfare recipiency, and the condition and importance of welfare information systems. Field researchers in twenty states are conducting this ongoing study in conjunction with Rockefeller Institute central staff.

Richard P. Nathan is Director of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Thomas L. Gais is Director of the Federalism Research Group at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.