Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Chapter V: Household Income


Household income is an important indicator of the well-being of welfare leavers. Yet only about half of the ASPE-funded leaver studies fully examine the income of leavers. There are several important reasons for this. First, most leaver studies focus on the first year after leavingvery few leavers are likely to achieve economic security in such a short period of time. Indeed, most leavers will have low incomes. Second, income is very hard to measure accurately. Perhaps the most reliable source of income data are tax records; such records are highly confidential and are rarely available for research purposes. Most information on income comes from survey data, but to obtain fairly accurate income information, the survey generally must devote a great deal of time to ask about each possible income source and then obtain the amount. Even among the studies that do ask about income, the amount of time and number of questions devoted to obtaining income data varies. Finally, income is only one measure of well-being, and many surveys ask about explicit hardships leavers face. Hardship information is discussed in a later chapter.

This chapter presents information on the average monthly incomes of welfare leavers and notes how incomes vary across groups of leavers such as those who remain off TANF for a full year (continuous leavers), those who are currently working, and those who never worked since exit. It then examines leavers' sources of income, focusing primarily on non-governmental sources (government transfers are featured in Chapter IV on program participation). Again, it examines how sources of income vary across different groups of leavers. Finally, it examines the poverty status of leaver families.