From a selection perspective, does prior dysfunction select women into welfare or serve as a barrier to leaving welfare? From a social causation perspective, does entering or exiting welfare lead to changes in well being? These questions were analyzed in panel data for over 3,600 women drawn from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth for the period 1992-94. Welfare is associated with both depression and alcohol consumption cross-sectionally. This link appears to derive in small part from selection into welfare by depression (in interaction with marital status), butdepression and alcohol abuse did not operate as barriers to leaving welfare. Entering welfare was clearly associated with increased depression and alcohol consumption, but confidence in an apparent beneficial effect on alcohol symptoms of leaving welfare for employment was limited by small sample sizes. These findings are located in the context of the 1996-welfare reform and the recent economic expansion. One implication is that community psychology should consider welfare entry as a risk factor similar to adverse employment changes such as job loss.