The process of national welfare reform has been overtaken by local reform as states implement experimental programs under federal waivers. Most of these initiatives attempt to enforce work or otherwise control the lives of the dependent in return for support. Research, which traditionally stressed the social and economic aspects of welfare or poverty, must be reoriented to address the administrative issues raised by the emerging paternalism. A combination of field interviewing and analyses of reporting data can track implementation and connect program operations to outcomes. Such research assesses program performance less surely than experimental trials do but is more useful to operators and more relevant to current program goals. The frontiers of welfare research, like welfare policy, are institutional.
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