Families on TANF in Illinois: Employment Assets and Liabilities. The Prevalence of Multiple Employment Liabilities

06/10/2003

Previous studies on the characteristics of welfare recipients have found that they often have multiple employment liabilities and that the likelihood of employment decreases as the number of liabilities increases (Olson and Pavetti 1996; Danziger et al. 2000; Loprest and Zedlewski 1999). For example, a recipient with limited education but substantial work experience is likely to experience more success in finding employment than a recipient with limited education and no work experience. A recipient with limited education and poor health may have less success in finding a job than a recipient with only one of these liabilities; the first individual may need to find a job that does not require a high school diploma and that provides a work schedule that is flexible enough to accommodate the employee's medical needs. A recipient experiencing major depression who faces child care and transportation problems may be overwhelmed by the prospect of finding a job in the face of these obstacles, whereas a recipient who experiences major depression but no other liabilities may be able to manage her depression well enough to find and maintain employment.

In our analysis, we examine 16 employment liabilities. Broadly speaking, they fall into three categories: human capital liabilities, personal challenges, and logistical and situational challenges (Table IV.1). The category of human capital liabilities, newly introduced in this chapter, was established by identifying the employment assets lacking in TANF case heads.(1)

Table IV.1
Potential Liabilities for Employment Included in Total Count
Human Capital Deficits
  • No high school diploma or GED
  • Limited recent work experience
  • Performed fewer than four common job tasks

Personal Challenges

  • Physical health problem
  • Mental health problem
  • Multiple arrests
  • Severe physical domestic violence in past year
  • Chemical dependence
  • Signs of a learning disability
  • Difficulty with English

Logistical and Situational Challenges

  • Child or other family member or friend with a health problem or special need
  • Child under one year old
  • Pregnant
  • Child care problem
  • Transportation problem
  • Unstable housing

 

  • Multiple liabilities for employment are extremely common among TANF case heads and are significantly more common among those who are not substantially employed.

The majority of TANF case heads have 3 or more liabilities for employment (Figure IV.1).(2) Only 4 percent do not have any liabilities, and 12 percent have only 1. Ten percent have 7 or more liabilities. The most liabilities for any one TANF recipient is 11.

IV.1 Number of Liabilities for Employment.

TANF case heads who are not employed at least 30 hours per week have an average of 3.9 liabilities for employment, which is significantly higher than the average of 2.8 liabilities characteristic of substantially employed case heads (Table IV.2). On average, TANF recipients who are not substantially employed have significantly more liabilities--whether human capital, personal, or logistical and situational--than their counterparts who work at least 30 hours per week. Regardless of employment status, the presence of multiple human capital and logistical and situational liabilities is more pronounced than the presence of multiple personal liabilities. For instance, among TANF case heads not substantially employed, more than 40 percent have multiple human capital liabilities (46 percent) or multiple logistical and situational challenges (44 percent). In contrast, only 29 percent have multiple personal challenges (results not shown, see Appendix D, Table D-26).

 

Table IV.2
Number of Potential Liabilities for Employment
  Employed at Least 30 Hours Per Week Not Employed at Least 30 Hours Per Week All
Average Number of Human Capital Deficits 1.1 1.4*** 1.3
Average Number of Personal Challenges 0.6 1.0*** 0.9
Average Number of Logistical and Situational Challenges 1.0 1.5*** 1.3
Average Number of All Liabilities for Employment 2.8 3.9*** 3.6
Source: 2001-02 survey of Illinois TANF cases and Illinois administrative data.
*** Difference between cases with/without an employed head is statistically significant at the .01 level.

 

  • Multiple liabilities are especially common among TANF case heads facing personal challenges and transportation issues.

TANF case heads who have a mental health problem, are chemically dependent, have experienced severe domestic violence in the past year, show signs of a learning disability, have difficulty with English, or face a transportation problem always have other liabilities as well (Table IV.3). Among TANF case heads with at least one employment liability, only 10 percent have seven or more liabilities (Table IV.3). However, the likelihood of having seven or more liabilities is substantially higher for recipients with certain liabilities. For example, about 40 percent of TANF case heads who have difficulty with English, show signs of a learning disability, or are chemically dependent have a total of seven or more liabilities. About 30 percent of TANF case heads with a physical health problem, a mental health problem, a recent history of severe domestic violence, or a transportation problem have a total of seven or more employment liabilities. TANF case heads who have a child under age one in the household are the least likely to have a high number of liabilities; specifically, only 9 percent have seven or more liabilities.

 

Table IV.3
Presence of Multiple Liabilities
  Number of Employment Liabilities (Percentages)
One Two or Three Four to Six Seven or More
All Recipients with 1+ Liability 13 39 38 10
Human Capital Liabilities
No high school diploma or GED 4 29 50 17
Limited recent work experience 5 35 45 15
Performed fewer than four common job tasks 1 33 45 20
Personal Challenges
Physical health problem 5 16 50 28
Mental health problem 0 16 55 30
Multiple arrests 6 17 56 22
Severe physical domestic violence in past year 0 24 45 31
Chemical dependence 0 29 33 38
Signs of a learning disability 0 12 48 40
Difficulty with English 0 0 54 46
Logistical and Situational Challenges
Child or other family member or friend with a health problem or special need 7 28 48 16
Child under age one in household 5 38 48 9
Pregnant 6 23 55 17
Child care problem 2 29 50 19
Transportation problem 0 27 43 31
Unstable housing 2 13 57 28
Source: Based on the results of a logit model predicting the probability of working 30+ hours per week using data from 2001-02 survey of Illinois TANF cases and Illinois administrative data.

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