12 UNC institutions to examine how N.C. counties handle welfare reform

CHAPEL HILL -- Faculty members at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will work with colleagues at 11 other UNC campuses over the next year to determine how N.C. counties have carried out welfare reform.

Their unique study is aimed at understanding how counties have responded to the national and state challenges of welfare reform. Most previous research on the subject has evaluated the changes' impact on recipients and on poverty reduction.

The new statewide project will describe how all 100 N.C. counties have organized to implement the state's Work First Program, according to study directors. Winston-Salem's Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation is supporting the effort with a new $50,000 grant to UNC-CH's Odum Institute for Research in Social Science.

"The whole area of assistance to families has undergone a major reordering since federal legislation in 1996, and the North Carolina General Assembly adopted its own welfare reform in 1997," said Dr. Deil S. Wright, alumni distinguished professor of political science at UNC-CH. "We are attempting to track county responses to our state's actions, which offered counties much more autonomy, discretion and policy options about welfare."

Wright and Dr. Philip Cooke, professor of social work, began designing and working on the study two years ago with funds supplied by UNC-CH. Team members will conduct and analyze interviews with such key people as county managers, county board members and social service directors, not tracking welfare recipients. They will gather information and officials' views from all counties broadly and examine 25 in detail.

Other study team members are Drs. Daniel Barbee of UNC-Pembroke, Thomas Barth of UNC-Wilmington, Ruth DeHoog of UNC-Greensboro, Terry Gibson of Western Carolina University, Dennis Grady of Appalachian State University, Elizabeth Ann O'Sullivan of N.C. State University, Gary Rassel of UNC-Charlotte, William Sabo of UNC-Asheville, Carmine Scavo o

Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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