Families on TANF in South Carolina: Employment Assets and Liabilities. Reasons for Not Working


Respondents who were not working for pay but who had worked for pay in the past were asked a series of questions about their reasons for not currently working. Respondents who cited more than one reason were asked to identify the most important reason.

  • Lack of jobs and health problems were the most common reasons given for not working, while few recipients cited child care or transportation.

One-quarter of the non-employed respondents stated that there were “no jobs”, and another quarter mentioned an illness or disability that prevented them from working (Appendix D Table III-b). In contrast, “logistical” barriers such as child care or transportation problems were cited by a relatively small percentage of non-employed recipients.

The finding on “no jobs” suggests that servic es to non-employed TANF recipients in South Carolina should be focused on helping recipients locate available jobs and on referring the recipients to jobs through job development activities. It appears that many of the non-employed recipients are not able to find jobs through their own self-directed job search efforts. With regard to health problems, the findings indicate that local welfare agencies in South Carolina need to do more to identify recipients with health barriers and refer them to appropriate rehabilitation services.
  • Older respondents were much more likely than younger respondents to cite health-related reasons for not working.

Of the non-employed respondents younger than 30, very few cited health as a major reason for not working (Figure III-3). In contrast, more than two-thirds of respondents aged 40 and older cited health problems as the main reason for not working.

Conversely, we found that almost a third of respondents under 30 cited lack of jobs as the main reason for not working, compared to about half as many of the respondents aged 35 and older (Figure mIII-3). Not surprisingly, younger respondents were also much more likely than older respondents tom mention being in school or training, pregnancy and child care problems.
  • One-third of the non-employed respondents who had worked in the past year mentioned health or pregnancy as the main reason for leaving their last job.

The study shows that health problems are not only an important factor in the current employment status of TANF recipients in South Carolina but were also a major reason why TANF recipients left their most recent jobs. Respondents who were non-employed but who had worked in the past 12 months were asked the reasons why they left their most recent job (data not shown). About 18% of these respondents mentioned health problems as the most important reason. Another 14% mentioned maternity leave or pregnancy.

Figure III-3 - Most Important Reason for Not Working, by Age Group (n = 762)

Source: Telephone surveys of 1,120 TANF recipients in South Carolina

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