In 1996, the United States Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, placing emphasis on individuals to take responsibility for separating themselves from governmental dependence by becoming economically self-sufficient through employment. Using a qualitative approach, this study explored the experiences of 15 African American women as they transitioned from welfare to determine the extent to which they were developing economic sufficiency as a result of their labor force participation. It also sought the perspectives of employers on the work-first approach to economic development among former recipients and their chances of becoming self-sufficient through employment. The study found three systems of barriers to impede the participants' economic progress: the work-first philosophy, labor market conditions and employment practices, and personal history and individual responsibility. These findings suggest that a more integrative approach is necessary, one that addresses both the personal and structural dimensions of women's economic development.