Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Material Hardship


A number of leaver studies go beyond earnings, employment, income, and program participation and examine the extent to which leavers experience material hardships such as hunger and housing problems and whether these hardships are different for families on and off welfare. Key findings include:

  • A quarter or more leaver families experience food hardships at some point after exiting TANFproblems having enough money for food or having food last for the monthand similar percentages experience trouble paying rent or utilities.
  • Although some studies show that leavers experience higher levels of food and housing-related hardship after exit relative to when on TANF, other studies show that hardships decrease or remain the same after exit.
  • With regard to medical hardship (being unable to access medical care), four studies find leavers are more likely to report being unable to afford health care for their families after exit as compared with before exit.

Several studies report results on material hardship across subgroups of leavers, including workers and non-workers and those who left TANF due to sanction or time limits.

  • Most studies that compare material hardship across employment status find that leavers who are working have lower levels of food, housing, and health care-related problems.
  • The available evidence on whether sanctioned and time-limited families experience greater material hardships than families who left welfare for other reasons is mixed.