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


The findings in this chapter showed that the characteristics and potential employment barriers of TANF recipients vary widely. For example, while 38% of the survey respondents had not completed high school or a GED, 24% had completed college courses or technical courses in addition to graduating from high school. Lack of education or jobs may be a significant hindrance to some, while the problems that bring others to TANF may have much more to do with physical and/or mental health problems, family and/or personal crises, or other difficulties.
The findings also suggest that divorced or separated recipients differ in important ways from recipients who never married. Never-married recipients may be more likely to face child care barriers because they have younger children on average. They are also more likely to be younger, to have dropped out of high school and to be African-American as compared to divorced or separated recipients.
Divorced or separated recipients have had more personal difficulties with an abusive partner or a partner with substance abuse problems than those who never married. Different interventions, such as counseling for post-traumatic stress syndrome for example, may be needed.
The findings also suggest that while many TANF recipients in South Carolina face potential employment barriers such as lack of education and child care difficulties, a large percentage have other adults in the household who may provide support to the recipient and otherwise act as a resource for the recipient. A recently completed study of families which had left TANF in South Carolina concluded that, while many of the welfare leavers were non-employed or had sporadic employment patterns, the level of hardships such as food insecurity and housing insecurity was only slightly higher among the non-employed than among the employed.2 In addition, most non-employed leavers did not report experiencing severe hardships in the absence of welfare benefits. The study highlighted the importance of family support networks and shared living arrangements.3
Finally, the results presented in this chapter are consistent with current research findin gs from “fragile families” studies. These studies have shown that a majority of low-income unmarried mothers are involved in some type of romantic relationship with the father of their child at the time of the child’s birth, but that most of these romantic relationships end within a few years after the birth.4 The break-up of these relationships often contributes to women coming on welfare.5 In the current study, it was
found that only 9% of the mothers who were never married to the father of their youngest child were still romantically involved with the father when interviewed. However, 36% reported that they were still friends with the father. This finding suggests that there may be opportunities to help support the father’s involvement in the life of the child even if the parents do not get married.

2 Three-Year Follow-Up Study of Welfare Leavers in South Carolina, MAXIMUS, December 2002
3 Case Studies of Welfare Leavers and Diverters in South Carolina, MAXIMUS, October 2001
4 Marcia Carlson, Sara McLanahan, and Paula England, “Union Formation and Dissolution in Fragile Families,”
FFCWB Research Paper, May 2003.
5 Edelhoch and Liu, (September 2003) “Who is Coming on Welfare Now, and Why?” Policy and Practice of
Public Human Services, The Journal of the American Public Human Services Association.

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