The findings in this chapter show that, while many of the TANF recipients were either currently working or had worked in the last year, a significant percentage had very limited and sporadic work histories. Thirty-eight percent had worked less than half the time since turning 18, and another 38% had not worked at all in the past year. Many of the respondents who were currently working had not worked continuously in the last 12 months.
The findings also show the importance of educational attainment in employment and earnings. High school dropouts had lower rates of employment, had lower average earnings, and were more likely to be working in restaurants, housekeeping, and other jobs with limited advancement potential and low wages. Many of the employed respondents were working in jobs that required non-standard work schedules, which often result in problems arranging satisfactory child care and in lowered job satisfaction.
With regard to sources of household income, the findings indicate that few TANF recipients can expect to rely on child support or other unearned income when they leave welfare. Few respondents reported any other type of unearned income. Clearly, job placement and job retention are very important in helping TANF recipients achieve self-sufficiency.
Regarding respondents who were not working, older recipients were more likely to cite health barriers to employment, while younger recipients were more likely to cite lack of jobs and child care barriers. Thus, different interventions may be needed to help different groups of TANF recipients. This issue is explored further in the next chapter where we examine the prevalence of specific barriers among the survey respondents.