Families on TANF in Illinois: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Methodology and Data Sources


To address the studys three main research questions, MPR selected as its study population all of the 33,495 single-parent cases in Illinois that were authorized to receive a TANF grant in November 2001. A single-parent case generally includes an unmarried adult with children under the age of 18. We defined a single-parent case such that it excludes child-only casesi.e., cases in which there is no adult grantee. The grantee is the person in whose name the TANF benefit is issued. The study population also included a small proportion (nine percent) of zero benefit cases, which were officially eligible for TANF in November 2001 but did not receive a cash grant in that month. However, they continued to receive Medicaid and food stamps, if eligible and enrolled. Sanctions, recoupment, and work-first requirements accounted for most of the zero benefit cases.

We defined the study population as all single-parent families in Illinois that were authorized to receive a TANF grant in November 2001 because we wanted to answer the overarching question, Who are the families that are on TANF in Illinois? A states TANF caseload at a point in time is a function of the process whereby families enter the TANF program, receive assistance for varying lengths of time, and then exit the program. This process is such that there are relatively more long-term and fewer short-term recipients at a point in time than there are among all families that entered the program in the period leading up to that point. Consequently, the findings presented in this report, while applicable to Illinois November 2001 TANF caseload, are generally not applicable to all families that entered TANF up to November 2001.

The data for this study came from five sources: (1) a telephone survey of TANF cases in which we sought to interview the case head, (2) administrative records for individual TANF cases from the Illinois Department of Human Services, (3) wage records for TANF case heads from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, (4) criminal history records for TANF case heads from the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, and (5) aggregate demographic and employment data on Illinois counties and five-digit zip codes from the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The administrative records from the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Department of Employment Security provided data on the studys full population of 33,495 single-parent TANF cases. The survey and the criminal history records provided data on a sample of about one percent of that population.

The survey was based on a sample of 532 single-parent TANF cases randomly drawn from the studys full population within two strataresidence in Cook County or in the rest of the state (referred to hereafter as downstate).(2) The sample was drawn in mid-November 2001 and interviewing began later that month and continued for 16 weeks, ending in early March 2002. We completed interviews with 416 of the sample members for a survey response rate of 78 percent. We took special care to complete the final interview as soon as possible after identifying the study population and selecting the survey sample in order to maximize the proportion of interviews completed with cases still receiving TANF. Eighty-six percent of the survey respondents reported that they had received a TANF grant in the month before their interview. The total percentage of respondents still on TANF at the time of the survey is likely to have been slightly higher given the possibility of zero-grant cases (the extent of which is unknown at the time of the survey). The survey findings presented in this report are based on data from the respondents that have been weighted to be representative of the entire population of single-parent TANF cases in Illinois.

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