In recent years, research examining the effects of welfare and antipoverty policies on children and adolescents has surged (Chase-Lansdale et al., 2003; Gennetian et al., 2002; Morris, Huston, Duncan, Crosby, & Bos, 2001; Huston et al., 2001; Yoshikawa, Rosman, & Hsueh, 2001; Yoshikawa, Magnuson, Bos, & Hsueh, 2003). Much of this interest has stemmed from the implementation of large-scale, nonexperimental and experimental studies assessing the effects of particular welfare-to-work approaches on school performance. These studies, in turn, were motivated by policy developments, starting in the 1980s, that first resulted in the Family Support Act of 1988; then over the course of the 1990s a series of welfare policy waiver programs in many states, and culminated in the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (Weaver, 2000). That legislation transformed the welfare system in the United States from an entitlement program to one contingent on work effort and subject to a cumulative lifetime limit of 60 months. As of this writing, that act is still in the process of reauthorization in the U.S. Congress.
Little research has examined whether race/ethnicity might moderate the effects of welfare policies in middle childhood. This question is of interest for several reasons. First, race and ethnicity continue to be major sources of social stratification in the United States. Racial and ethnic gaps in children's school achievement and earlier school readiness are persistent, despite some declines in recent years (Lee & Burkham, 2002; Jencks & Phillips, 1998).