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Over the past 25 years, welfare and other public policies for families living below the poverty line have developed a primary objective of promoting parents’ self-sufficiency. The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), passed in 1996, was a milestone in this effort, limiting the number of years that families can receive federal cash welfare assistance and requiring most of them to participate in work-related activities to be eligible for such assistance. This new emphasis on work was one of the main reasons for the dramatic decline in welfare dependency during the late 1990s. The new legislation, however, also prompted an extensive debate over the effects of welfare reform on the cognitive development and well-being of children. [excerpt]