This article examines state welfare policy choices following the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. Using data from national studies and an intensive study of policymaking in New England, the authors demonstrate that states have acted independently rather than uniformly in response to devolution. Because states did not respond as predicted, and for reasons that were not anticipated, scholars must develop new approaches to understanding state policymaking. This study argues that accounting for state policy choices requires an understanding of the context of policymaking. Conventional analyses of welfare reform have ignored the institutional structures through which policy is formulated and thus miss the most important determinant of choices: the actions of administrative officials. The lesson of welfare reform in New England is clear: administration matters.



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