Adding Spring to the Safety Net: Expanding Work Programs for Poor Men
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Bipartisan welfare reform efforts of the mid-1990s, which required poor mothers to work in return for assistance, cut the welfare rolls in half and helped many families escape poverty. But to fully address family poverty in America, the same lessons need to be applied to nonworking men. Lawrence M. Mead, author of Expanding Work Programs for Poor Men (AEI Press, 2011), argues that poor fathers, like welfare mothers, need "both help and hassle." That is, they need better benefits, but they must also be expected--and required--to help themselves. His strategy is to graft new work programs on to the child-support and criminal-justice systems that already deal with low-income men, moving them from the underclass into the working class. Elaine Sorensen of the Urban Institute and Judge Kristin H. Ruth will respond.
11:30 AM
Registration and Luncheon

12:00 PM



LAWRENCE M. MEAD, New York University and AEI

JUDGE KRISTIN H. RUTH, Child Support Court, Wake County, North Carolina
ELAINE SORENSEN, Urban Institute

Question and Answer

1:30 PM
Speaker Biographies


Henry Olsen is vice president and director of the National Research Initiative (NRI) at AEI. He disseminates and publicizes AEI's work to the academic community; works with AEI's visiting, adjunct, and NRI research fellows; commissions and supervises NRI projects; and oversees the production of NRI publications. Mr. Olsen previously served as vice president for programs at the Manhattan Institute and as a judicial clerk to Danny J. Boggs, the chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

Lawrence M. Mead
is a professor of politics and public policy at New York University and a visiting scholar at AEI. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard University, Princeton University and the University of Wisconsin and a visiting fellow at Princeton and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. Mr. Mead is an expert on the problems of poverty and welfare in the United States. Among academics, he was the principal exponent of work requirements in welfare, the approach that now dominates national policy. He is also a leading scholar of the politics and implementation of welfare reform and work programs for men. He is the author of seven books and more than 100 other publications. Government Matters (Princeton University Press, 2004), his study of welfare reform in Wisconsin, was a co-winner of the 2005 Louis Brownlow Book Award, given by the National Academy of Public Administration. He recently published Expanding Work Programs for Poor Men (May 2011) and From Justice to Charity: How to Help the Poor (forthcoming) with AEI Press.

Elaine Sorensen is a nationally recognized research expert on the child support program. She is best known for her research on child support arrears and was one of the first researchers to use census data to examine noncustodial parents. Her current research examines the impact of the New York Fatherhood Initiative, called Strengthening Families Through Stronger Fathers. Ms. Sorensen has worked at the Urban Institute for twenty-five years. Before joining the Institute, she taught economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

Kristin H. Ruth is a district court judge in Wake County, North Carolina. Judge Ruth is currently serving her fourth four-year term and concentrates most of her time in the enforcement of child support. She has been instrumental in implementing alternatives to incarceration and promotes employment resources, electronic house arrest and mediation in the disposition of her cases. In 2000, Judge Ruth was awarded the North Carolina Child Support Council's Distinguished Service of Excellence Award. In 2003, she received the American Business Woman of the Year Award through the American Business Women's Association, and in 2004, she was awarded the Commissioner's Judge of the Year Award, presented to her by the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement. She currently serves on the board of Carolina Dispute Settlement Services and Carolina Correctional Services and is a member of the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the Federal Judicial Child Support Task Force. She recently completed a three-year term on the Chief Justice's Commission for Professionalism. In 2008, Judge Ruth was awarded a three-year special improvement project grant from the Office of Child Support Enforcement to produce a best practice/policy manual and

interactive website

for her model problem-solving child support court.

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  • Henry Olsen, a lawyer by training, is the director of AEI's National Research Initiative. In that capacity, he identifies leading academics and public intellectuals who work in an aspect of domestic public policy and recruits them to visit or write for AEI. Mr. Olsen studies and writes about the policy and political implications of long-term trends in social, economic, and political thought.
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