The Creation and Illustration of Quality of Life: A Conceptual Model for Examining Welfare Reform Impacts

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Virginia Tech

Policymakers, public administrators, the media, and others are celebrating the "success" of the latest version of welfare reform, codified into law in the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Most often, success is defined in terms of declining caseloads or in some other economic form - a practice that does not provide a true sense of the impact of policy changes such as welfare reform. Assessing the human impact of policy change requires more than the evaluation of economic outcomes; it requires knowing about the resources of beneficiaries of social services and their conditions of life from various perspectives. Thus, we have to strive for greater understanding about the socio-cultural aspects of people's lives that create the whole person, aspects such as health, family and friendship networks, housing situations, public and private support service and program use, conditions of work, and so forth (Erikson, 1993). This is how we come to understand one;s quality of life. The present research creates a conceptual model called quality of life, and illustrates the model using data from a follow-up study of former welfare recipients in a county in northern Virginia. Evaluation activities premised on a quality of life model will assist policy actors in understanding policy impacts and how to strategically manage public institutions within their very complex contexts, especially in an era of welfare reform.

Welfare Reform, Evaluation, Policy Evaluation, Social Policy, Quality of Life