Can You Solve the Great AFDC Chart?

I have had the following chart sitting around for months and I just noticed it again today. But what does it mean? Why did I make it? What story was I planning to tell?

AFDC started out as a program for (white) widows. That was no problem: back in the 30s no one expected (white) widows to work so giving them a living allowance was widely supported. In the early 60s it expanded to incude any family where the father didn’t work. People grumbled a little bit. In the late 60s black women were allowed to get AFDC benefits. More grumbling. Then benefit requirements were eased, leading to larger enrollments. Yet more grumbling. And that was about it through the 1990s.

As of 1995 total benefits paid had for years been flat at about $25 billion, and benefits per recipient were actually declining, reaching their lowest level ever in 1994. So why was AFDC killed in favor of TANF? The program wasn’t skyrocketing out of control. There was some evidence that AFDC recipients didn’t look for jobs, but the evidence was kind of thin. Oh, and the AFDC rolls were full of black people, a big change from the 50s and early 60s.

Beyond all that, what point did I have to make? It’s driving me crazy. I’ll FedEx a free lollypop to whoever can guess what I was planning to do with this chart.

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Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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