Families on TANF in South Carolina: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Findings on the Prevalence of Specific Barriers


  • Health problems and educational deficits were common among respondents.

Approximately one-third of respondents could be categorized as having a mental health problem, and nearly a quarter reported a physical health problem (Table ES-1). In addition, one in seven reported that they were caring for a child or other family member who had a health problem or other special need.

Reviews of administrative data showed that the TANF caseload had much higher rates of hospital emergency department use and hospitalization than the general population across a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. This finding suggests that many TANF recipients may face special health challenges.
In terms of educational deficits and related issues, almost 40% of the respondents had not completed high school or a GED, and 24% had limited job skills. In addition, one in eight had signs of a possible learning disability.
Regarding other personal barriers, one in seven of the respondents had experienced severe physical domestic violence in the past year, and 11% had a criminal record. Only 1% of the respondents could be classified as having a chemical dependence problem, but this finding must be treated with caution because it is based on self-reported behavior. Also, it was anticipated that estimates of “dependency” would be low in this survey because measures of dependency are narrower than measures of alcohol and drug use, or even abuse.
  • Many of the TANF recipients also had situational or logistical problems that were potential barriers to employment.

Approximately one-third of the survey respondents reported that transportation problems were a barrier to employment, education, or job training in the past year (Table ES-1), and a quarter reported that child care had been a barrier. Almost half of the respondents reported one or more neighborhood problems, such as high unemployment, crime, and/or drug use, and over 20% reported unstable housing in the past year.

Table ES-1
Employment Liabilities Among the Survey Respondents
Personal Challenges Percent
Physical health problem 22
Mental health problem 32
Child or other family member with health problem or need 14
Severe physical domestic violence in the past year 15
Signs of a possible learning disability 12
Criminal record 11
Chemical dependence 1
Human Capital Liabilities Percent
Did not complete high school or GED 38
Experience with fewer than four common job tasks 24
Logistical and Situational Challenges Percent
Transportation barrier in past year 31
Child care barrier in past year 25
Unstable housing in past year 22
One or more neighborhood problems 49

For definitions of these liabilities, see Chapter IV of the report Source: Telephone surveys of 1,120 TANF recipients in South Carolina


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