Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Material Hardships Among Subgroups of TANF Leavers


Above, the discussion has focused on material hardship among the entire group of welfare leavers. However, there are important questions about how specific subgroups of leavers are doing. For example, one would like to know if hardship is greater among leavers that are not working than those who are working. Also, it would be helpful to know if there are differences in hardship across families by the reason they left welfare, specifically those who left due to sanctions or time limits relative to those who did not. Several leaver studies reviewed here allow us to explore these questions. For these comparisons, the report shows a subset of the measures of food, housing, and health care hardships discussed earlier.

 Five studies allow for comparisons between employed leavers and those who are not employed (Table VI.7). All of these studies include results for the group of leavers that are currently employed at the time of the interview. Missouri also reports results separately for those who have worked at some point and those who never worked since exit.43 It is important to remember that in all of these studies, except South Carolina, families who have returned to TANF are included.

Table VI.7:
Single-Parent Leavers' Experience of Material Hardship by Employment Status


DC1 IA IL1 MO1 SC1,2
Employed Not Employed Employed Not employed Employed Not employed Currently employed Worked since exit Never worked since exit Employed Not Employed

Cut the size of meals or skipped meals (every month or some months)

25 26     21 32 2 3 4 3 8 3 17 25

Could not afford food/food didn't last (often or sometimes)

47 44     38 55 25 4 26 4 27 4    

Food insecure

    29 40              

Behind on Rent/Housing Costs

28 27 25 25 29 54 21 5 37 5 25 5 31 35

Behind on Utility Payments

33 24               48 49

Went Without Utilities

5 6 6 6 34 46 12 17       10 6 14 6

Used homeless shelter

1 6 4 7 11 7 1 7       2 3

Did not get medical care when needed

8 9     25 39       8 14

1Results are for all cases, not just single-parents.
2Results are for families that remain off of welfare at the time of the survey.
3Question asks if child skipped meal due to lack of food.
4Question asks if respondent was unable to buy enough food.
5Reports are for percent unable to pay rent, mortage, or utilities.
6Percent reporting that they went without electricity.
7Reports are for respondents who were ever homeless.
Source: See Appendix Bfor a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

 Iowa, Illinois and South Carolina generally find that leavers who are working have lower levels of food, housing, and health care related problems. Further, in Missouri, those currently employed have fewer experiences of food and housing hardships than those who have never worked. Those who have worked at some point since exit but are not currently employed report more food hardships than those who are working at the time of the interview, but less than those who have never worked since exit. Interestingly, however, this group of families that have worked reports a higher incidence of being unable to pay rent, mortgage, or utilities than either workers or those who never worked. This group of intermittent workers also reports greater hardships on other measures not included here.

 DC finds more mixed results than the other studies. Those not working have similar rates of hardship in all areas compared with those who are working with one exception: behind on utilities. Employed leavers in DC are more likely to report that they are behind on their utilities payments than non-working leavers (33 v. 24 percent). These mixed results may reflect that a larger number of leavers who are not employed have returned to TANF, to provide their families with some cushion of income, rather than remain both unemployed and off TANF. However, this does not seem to be the case in any of the other studies.

 Another subgroup comparison of interest is those who left TANF due to sanctions or time limits versus those who did not leave for these reasons. Three studies allow us to examine this question. Arizona reports results for both sanctioned and non-sanctioned leavers and Massachusetts reports results for both those who left due to time limits and other leavers. South Carolina reports results separately for families who left due to sanctions, time limits, earned income, and other reasons.44

The available evidence on whether sanctioned and time-limited families experience greater material hardships is mixed (Table VI.8). In Arizona, sanctioned and non-sanctioned families have similar experiences of hardship on all but two measures. A greater percentage of sanctioned families had utilities turned off (16 percent) than non-sanctioned families (11 percent). And a smaller percentage of sanctioned families report they were unable to get medical attention when needed (17 percent) compared with non-sanctioned families (25 percent).

Table VI.8:
Single-Parent Leavers' Experience of Material Hardship by Sanction or Time-Limit Reason for Exit1


AZ MA2 SC2,3
Sanction Non- Sanction Time-Limited Non Time-Limited Sanctions Time Limits Earned Income Other

Not enough to eat at times

25 24            

Ate less because not enough money

        21 16 22 25

Hungry but didn't eat because couldn't afford

        10 6 9 14

Food Insecure

    42 43        

Food Inscure with Hunger

    24 21        

Received Emergency Food Services


Food from religious, community or charitable organization

12 12     2 1 2 2

Food pantry/food kitchen/shelters/food banks

22 21 33 26 2 2 3 3

Behind on Rent/Housing Costs

36 37     31 33 35 29

Behind on Utilities

        51 48 47 48

Utilities turned off/Went without

16 11 26 26 15 4 17 4 9 4 12 4

Phone disconnected

        36 39 33 36

Forced to move because of housing costs

19 17     13 20 11 15

Used homeless shelter

3 3 1 3 2 2 1 3

Did not get medical attention when needed

17 25     13 7 8 14

1Results are for all cases, not just single-parents.
2All categories are based on administrative reason for exit.
3Results are for families that remain off of welfare at the time of the survey.
4Percent reporting that their electricty was turned off because of failure to pay.
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

In Massachusetts, the difference between families who left because they reached the time-limit and those who left for other reasons is somewhat mixed. The biggest difference is that more time-limited families report using emergency food services (33 percent) than non-time-limited families (26 percent). However, for most of the other measures shown in Table VI.8, as well as for other measures not shown here, Massachusetts finds relatively little evidence of difference between the two groups in hardship.

South Carolina also shows mixed results across these measures of material hardship. While those who left due to earned income experience the lowest levels of hardship on four out of five housing measures, they are most likely to be behind on rent/housing costs. In addition, on all of the food-related measures shown here and on reports of inability to obtain medical attention when needed, leavers whose cases were closed due to time-limits have the lowest experience of hardship of all the leaver subgroups. Indeed, none of these studies present consistent evidence that sanctioned or time-limited cases have higher levels of material hardship.