Did welfare reform work?:
Welfare Reform Worked, by Ron Haskins and Peter H. Schuck, Brookings: The primary election campaign has intensified a justified concern about inequality in America: People at the top are rising much faster than everyone else. Even low-income Americans consider relatively high levels of inequality acceptable if they have a decent opportunity to improve their condition. But because they may work fewer hours and at stagnant wages, their gains are very limited.
Among the poor, surprisingly, never-married mothers have gained the most in recent decades. Their story shows the best way to reduce poverty and inequality: by encouraging individuals to work more and by supplementing their earnings with tax credits, child-care subsidies and other benefits for low-income working parents.
Until the mid-1990s, never-married mothers seldom worked outside the home, had poverty rates of over 60% and were at least five times more likely than married-couple families to be poor. Then in 1996, congressional Republicans and President Clinton collaborated on a welfare reform law requiring adults on welfare, including never-married mothers, to work.When Clinton signed the law, many of his strongest political supporters reviled him for entering into "a pact with the devil." They predicted that poor women and their children deprived of welfare would die in the streets. Any employment gains, they insisted, would vanish in the first economic downturn.
The data refute these dire predictions....
See here for another view (scroll down to the section "TANF’s Overall Record Belies Claims of Welfare Reform’s Success").