Families on TANF in South Carolina: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Executive Summary


Since enactment of the 1996 welfare reform law, researchers have conducted numerous studies of families who have left welfare in order to assess their employment status and overall well-being. In contrast, relatively little research has been conducted on families currently on welfare to learn about their characteristics and barriers to self-sufficiency.
The federal 1996 PRWORA legislation created the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) Program to replace the AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) Program. As welfare rolls declined dramatically through the late ‘90’s, policy makers became increasingly interested in developing effective policies and services for the “residual caseload” of families who remain on welfare.
This report presents findings on the characteristics and employment barriers of families receiving TANF benefits in South Carolina’s Family Independence (FI) Program. The study included in-depth telephone interviews with 1,120 case heads of families receiving TANF benefits in South Carolina during June 2002, in a research design stratified to include recipients who had received exemptions from work requirements and recipients who had been granted extensions of the time limits, as well as recipients “mandatory to work” without an exemption or time-limit extension. Administrative records data were also compiled from the TANF and food stamp histories of the families in the sample. Finally, to examine health barriers, information was gathered on hospital emergency department visits and hospitalizations among TANF families.
This study was conducted as part of a research grant program involving South Carolina, four other states and the District of Columbia (DC), sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The five grantee states and DC used a common interview instrument, developed by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), in order to generate comparable, high-quality information. (Appendix C to the full report provides the data tables common to the five states and the District of Columbia).

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