Families on TANF in South Carolina: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Job Skills


In Chapter II of this report, we presented data showing that more than 60% of the survey respondents were either currently working or had worked in the past year and had worked at least threequarters of the time since they turned 18. Although most of the respondents had a work history, the important question is whether TANF recipients have job skills sufficient for them to earn “living wages.” To examine this issue, the respondents were asked whether they had used specific skills in their current or most recent jobs.
  • Over 80% of the respondents reported experience with four or more of the job skills assessed in the survey.

While most respondents had experience with a variety of job skills, less than half had worked with computers; of the respondents who were currently employed or who had worked in the last year, a third used a computer on a daily basis and 40% used a computer at least weekly in their job. About a quarter reported that they wrote letters or memos at least weekly, and slightly more than a third had supervised other people (Table IV-1).

Table IV-1
Skills Used at Least Weekly in Current or Most Recent Job (n=703)*
Skill Percent
Talked with customers face to face 88
Used electronic machine other than a computer
Did arithmetic 75
Filled out forms 60
Talked with customers over the phone 55
Read instructions or reports 57
Monitored gauges or instruments 38
Worked with a computer 41
Supervised other people 36
Wrote letters or memos 27
Performed at least 4 of the above tasks 82
*Includes respondents who were currently employed or who had worked in the last year
Source: Telephone surveys of 1,120 TANF recipients in South Carolina
  • The jobs held by high school dropouts involved fewer skills than the jobs held by more educated respondents.

As discussed in Chapter III, jobs involving office/clerical skills had more advancement potential than most of the other occupations in which respondents were employed. Those educated beyond high school were more likely than high school dropouts to have performed certain skilled tasks (Appendix D Table IV-a). For example, 50% of those educated beyond high school had used a computer on a regular basis in their job and 33% had written letters or memos, compared to 26% and 16%, respectively, of high school dropouts.


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