Credit: Allison McCartney for Reveal

In his bid for the presidency, Bill Clinton promised to reform welfare. And Congress later would pass such measures.

The 1996 welfare reform law gave control of $16.5 billion in federal spending to states in the form of block grants. The goal of the reforms was to help those who needed public assistance lift themselves out of poverty by giving them some financial support and getting them working.

But two decades later, most states have higher rates of families living in poverty. At the same time, 45 states are spending a smaller percentage of their welfare dollars on basic assistance, which includes cash welfare, child care and work-related assistance.

What do those changes look like over time? The chart below shows the poverty rate and welfare funding for states and the nation from 1998, when all states began reporting data, to 2014.

Choose a state and click play to watch how the numbers have changed over the years. Some states have seen a steady decrease in funding and increase in poor families, while others have been up and down over the years.

For more about welfare reform, check out this recent episode of Reveal.

Jieqian Zhang can be reached at, and Julia B. Chan can be reached at Follow them on Twitter: @Jieqian_Zhang  and @juliachanb.

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Jieqian Zhang is the 2016 Google News Lab Fellow at Reveal. She recently graduated from the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. During her time in Berkeley, she ignited her passion for data and graphic reporting, as well as international reporting. She was a contributing graphic designer at Google Trends and a visual intern at the Asia Society's ChinaFile. Before coming to the United States, she worked as an associate news producer in China for foreign organizations such as RTL Nieuws, Swiss Radio and Television and Le Figaro.

Julia B. Chan worked at The Center for Investigative Reporting until June, 2017. Julia B. Chan is a producer and the digital editor for Reveal's national public radio program. She’s the voice of Reveal online and manages the production and curation of digital story assets that are sent to more than 200 stations across the country. Previously, Chan helped The Center for Investigative Reporting launch YouTube’s first investigative news channel, The I Files, and led engagement strategies – online and off – for multimedia projects. She oversaw communications, worked to better connect CIR’s work with a bigger audience and developed creative content and collaborations to garner conversation and impact.

Before joining CIR, Chan worked as a Web editor and reporter at the San Francisco Examiner. She managed the newspaper’s digital strategy and orchestrated its first foray into social media and online engagement. A rare San Francisco native, she studied broadcasting at San Francisco State University, focusing on audio production and recording. Chan is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.