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TANF “Leavers”, Applicants, and Caseload Studies: FY 2000 Welfare Outcomes Grants

The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) has awarded approximately $1.05 million in grants to enhance state-specific surveys of populations affected by welfare reform, by expanding or improving data collection activities, including efforts to improve cross-state comparability. Grants to states are being used, for example, to add additional survey waves to measure longer-term outcomes, collect data to support greater sub-group analyses, and gather more detailed information on non-respondents. To be eligible, states had to have an existing survey that had been administered at least once, so the grants can facilitate real improvements, without paying for basic startup costs. Survey efforts needed to fill an important knowledge gap that could not be filled with states' existing data. The data cover a variety of welfare reform outcomes, such as measures of family hardship and well-being, barriers to employment, poverty status, and utilization of support programs. The surveys focus on various subsets of the low-income population including long-term welfare recipients, child-only cases, former recipients, potential recipients, welfare leavers with little or no reported income, and other special populations affected by state TANF policies.

The five (5) grantees selected for funding in FY 2000 were:

Each project is summarized below.

Alameda County (CA)

Alameda County builds on its existing survey of current TANF recipients and TANF leavers who were interviewed at baseline and at 15 months. Under this project, researchers are conducting a 27- month follow-up survey and maintain the same detailed focus on health barriers to employment, including issues related to mental health and substance abuse. Researchers from the Public Health Institute are conducting in-person interviews and linking responses to the state's administrative data systems to gain information on demographics, earnings and program participation. The data gathering has been completed and analysis of the data are underway.  Findings are expected in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Richard Speiglman, Public Health Institute
Phone:  (510) 649-1987



Report:  Living on Little

Iowa builds on an existing study of families leaving the Family Independence Program (FIP). The study is conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR). Their new study, consists of three components: one focusing on families who have left TANF and report very low incomes, a second focusing on longer-term outcomes for families that have left TANF, and a third focusing on nonrespondents from their earlier survey. MPR has secured significant funding from foundations in addition to the ASPE grant for both components of the project.

In their study of families with very low incomes, MPR conducted in-depth interviews of 16 families reporting no more than $500 in total income per month, including those with no TANF and no employment, and those with low levels of TANF and/or employment. These interviews focused on possible income sources that were missed or incorrectly measured, coping strategies and family well-being. They found that while many families had two or more sources of income, their incomes varied significantly from month to month, often leaving gaps in their ability to meet regular monthly expenses such as rent. Coping strategies included negotiating partial payment on bills, pawning goods, doubling up on rent and finding additional sources of income such as recycling cans or babysitting. MPR found that the great monthly variability in income made it likely that traditional one-time phone interviews of leavers are limited in their ability to capture economic well-being of families.  The final report for this study was released in August 2001.

MPR's second analysis of Iowa added a second wave to their existing survey of welfare leavers to observe outcomes two years after families left TANF. The analysis also incorporates administrative data to help track income and program participation. The study found that most family heads were working 2 years after leaving TANF, had above minimum wage jobs and were as well or better off than they were a year ago. However, their work was unstable and over half remained poor or near poor. While only about one fifth returned to TANF, closer to one half participated in Medicaid and over one third in food stamps.  The final report for this analysis will be available in April 2002.

MPR's final analysis under this grant conducts interviews with approximately 47 non-respondent cases from their earlier survey of one-year outcomes, targeting a response rate of roughly 60 percent. Information from these interviews is being used to assess the representativeness of survey data on welfare outcomes and the implications for interpreting findings. Interviews have been completed and analysis of data is underway.  MPR estimates that findings from this analysis will be available in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Amjed Mohammed, Iowa Department of Human Services
Phone:  (515) 281-6820



Missouri is building on its ASPE-funded study of former TANF recipients who left the rolls in 1996 and 1997, and is adding a cohort of recipients who have remained on TANF for at least 36 months. The study seeks to characterize and contrast the self-sufficiency outcomes and barriers for current and former TANF recipients, and to identify which factors are most predictive of successfully transitioning off welfare, as well as those characteristics most predictive of exhausting the time limit. Survey data is linked with administrative data on TANF, food stamps, child care, Medicaid, and some community-based assistance. Thus far, the contractor for the study, the Midwest Research Institute, has selected the sample of long-term recipients and has fielded the questionnaire on barriers to work. Data analysis is ongoing.  Findings for the study should be available in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Richard Koon, Missouri Department of Social Services
Phone:  (573)751-3060


San Mateo County (CA) consortium

This study uses both administrative and survey data to study child-only cases, including cases that have left TANF and those that remain on the rolls. The study seeks to better understand the characteristics and outcomes of these families, many of whom are headed by immigrant parents. The study takes place in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, and is being conducted by the SPHERE Institute. Their study also draws on administrative data from county case files, wage records and Medicaid eligibility data. Thus far, researchers have developed their research design, coordinated with various county offices, fielded the survey instrument, and constructed the administrative data files. Data analysis is ongoing, and a report is expected in Summer 2002.

Grantee Contact:  David Mancuso, The SPHERE Institute
Phone: (650) 558-3980 x.13



This project adds a third wave of interviews to the Institute for Research on Poverty’s existing study of a cohort of TANF applicants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The findings from this wave will reflect outcomes for this cohort approximately two years after the baseline data were collected. The study is based on a sample of applicants, and the survey will contain results for those who have entered and subsequently left TANF, those still receiving TANF, and some who never received TANF. Adding a third wave to the applicant survey will support analysis of a significant number of cases who have reached the time limit in Wisconsin, and a significant number of cases who have cycled off and on the rolls. The researchers will examine a large number of outcomes related to employment, well-being and program participation. They anticipate that of the 1200 respondents from Wave 1, approximately 900 will complete interviews for Wave 3. The Wave 3 survey is currently in the field, and a descriptive report should be available in late  Fall 2002.

Grantee Contact:  Irving Piliavian, Institute for Research on Poverty 
Phone:  (608) 262-6358