The recent decline in the national welfare rolls suggests that mandatory work programs can reduce dependency by more than evaluations suggest. The nonexperimental literature does not test that possibility well. This study uses field interviewing and program data more fully than previously to portray the forces shaping caseload decline. It focuses on Wisconsin, the state with the most dramatic caseload fall. A time series analysis of the state caseload trend over 1986–94 casts doubt on the view that good economic conditions and benefit cuts alone account for the caseload decline. Cross-sectional analyses comparing counties find strong evidence that both a good economy and demanding work requirements helped drive the caseload down. However, the consequences for recipients are unclear, and to reduce dependency this way makes heavy political and administrative demands on government.
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