Disabilities Among TANF Recipients: Evidence from the NHIS. Introduction


Since the passage of welfare reform in 1996, the focus on moving TANF recipients into the labor force has led to increased study of recipients who have significant challenges that can impede work, including disabilities and serious health problems. Changes to regulations in the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) of 2005 resulted in most states needing to engage more TANF recipients in work and exploring ways to engage these recipients. The recent recession may leave many states struggling to decide where to dedicate limited resources and how to meet the work participation requirements. Understanding the prevalence of disability among TANF recipients and other at-risk low-income populations at the time of reauthorization provides a baseline for analyzing subsequent changes. TANF administrators and policymakers at all levels of government can benefit from having information on disabilities among TANF recipients and employment among those with disabilities.

This report uses information from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) in 2005 and 2006 — the years when DRA was passed and first being implemented — to provide a snapshot of the different types of disabilities among TANF recipients, how disability prevalence among TANF recipients compares to other groups, and employment rates among TANF recipients with disabilities. The report presents this information in straightforward tables and charts with bullets highlighting the most important findings. Before presenting the findings, we give a short background on what other studies have found and a section outlining our data, methods, and definitions. A more complete description of these can be found in the Appendix.

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