Federal welfare reform legislation permits considerable variation in welfare-related provisions from state to state. These may be characterized in terms of duration and distribution of basic support, contingencies that are designed to facilitate the transition from welfare to work, and contingencies that are designed to punish failures to comply with work requirements. These varying provisions are the independent variables in a massive, unplanned nationwide experiment on the effects of contingencies at a societal level; the data, which are gradually becoming available, may tell us something about the relative effectiveness of different sorts of contingencies at this level.
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