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Welfare Reform: A Primer in 12 Questions

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Creating an effective welfare system is a daunting challenge. The primary goals of welfare—providing adequate support, modifying the behavior of recipients, and limiting program costs—are linked in a relationship that David Stockman (President Reagan’s budget director) christened the iron triangle: We cannot change one element of the relationship without affecting the other two. The authors examine the conflicts that exist among the goals of welfare and discuss the compromises and tradeoffs those conflicts require in the reform process. Although the analysis focuses on welfare reform in California, the implications are relevant to welfare design in other states as well.