Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Employment and Earnings

11/27/2001

Encouraging families to move off welfare and into jobs is a goal of welfare reform. All fifteen studies collected some information about employment rates and earnings, wages, and/or employer-related benefits of families that left welfare. The major findings in this area across these studies are:

  • About three-quarters of all leavers work at some point in the year after exiting TANF, on average, and about three out of five work at any given point in time. A little more than a third work in all four quarters after exiting TANF.

Employment Rates (%) of Single-Parent Welfare Leavers

The graph shows the minimum, maximum, and median employment rates as reported across the studies. Not all studies provide data for all post-exit quarters. The data here represent the percentage of leavers employed in the first and fourth quarters after exit, the percentage who ever worked (employed in at least one of the four quarters after exit) and the percentage who worked in all quarters. See Table III.1 of the Final Synthesis Report for more details.

  • Mean earnings of employed welfare leavers are about $2,600 per quarter, according to administrative data. Most studies show an increase in quarterly earnings of at least $200 between the first and fourth quarter after exit.

Earnings ($) of Single-Parent Welfare Leavers

The graph shows the minimum, maximum, and median employment rates as reported across the studies. Not all studies provide data for all post-exit quarters. The data here represent the percentage of leavers employed in the first and fourth quarters after exit, the percentage who ever worked (employed in at least one of the four quarters after exit) and the percentage who worked in all quarters. See Table III.1 of the Final Synthesis Report for more details.

  • Working leavers' wages, averaging between $7 and $8 an hour, are generally above the federal minimum wage but are nevertheless low.
  • Employed leavers tend to work close to full-time, on average at least 35 hours per week.
  • About half of all working leavers are offered employer-sponsored health insurance through their jobs, but only about one-third actually have this coverage.
  • Some leavers receive other employer-sponsored benefits. In general, no more than half have paid sick leave or pension coverage. Paid vacations days are a bit more common.
  • No single barrier to work consistently affects a majority of leavers; however, a substantial minority of leavers must overcome both child care and health-related problems in order to work.
  • Continuous leavers, those who did not return to TANF in the year after exit, are just as likely to have ever worked after exit as those who returned to TANF. However, continuous leavers are somewhat more likely to have worked all four quarters after exit than those who returned. Continuous leavers also have higher earnings than leavers in general.