Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants. Overall Well-being


A final measure of well-being of families comes from a more general question posed to families in six studies. The question asks families to compare their overall well-being since exiting TANF to a prior time period when they were on TANF (Table VI.6). The specific question varies somewhat across studies, from asking about change in overall well-being to emotional well-being to general standard of living. Six studies report the percentage of families claiming they are better off, worse off, or the same relative to before leaving TANF, although two studies, Arizona and Washington, report finer gradations as well.

Table VI.6:
Overall Current Well-Being Relative to Before Leaving TANF: Survey Data


Much Better Off Better Off Same Worse Off Much Worse Off


31 37 16 12 3


n.a. 57 30 13 n.a.


n.a. 49 32 19 n.a.


n.a. 47 26 28 n.a.

South Carolina1,5

n.a. 80 n.a. 20 n.a.


32 28 19 13 8

1Results are for all cases, not just single-parents.
2Respondents were asked only whether "better off," "same," or "worse off."
3Iowa asks standard of living relative to before exit.
4Massachusetts reports financial and emotional well-being, as well as satifaction with housing, child-rearing, and food. These numbers are for emotional well-being; the numbers for financial well-being are similar.
5Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, "Life was better when I was getting welfare."
Source: See Appendix B for a complete listing of the leavers studies referenced.

In all six studies, about half or more families report they are better off since leaving welfare. More than two-thirds of families report they are better off in Arizona. South Carolina asks families whether they agree or disagree with the statement Life was better when I was getting welfare and 80 percent disagree. Approximately one-fifth or fewer of families report they are worse off or much worse off after leaving TANF than before in all states except Massachusetts, where 28 percent report they are worse off. Illinois has the lowest percentage of leavers who say they are worse off since leaving TANF (13 percent).

Interestingly, this overall self-assessment of relative well-being does not always accord with the leavers reports of specific measures of hardship discussed earlier. For Arizona and Illinois, the relatively high percentage of leaver families reporting they are better off after exit matches the generally lower levels of specific hardships reported in these studies. However, the results for Massachusetts, South Carolina, and Washington are less consistent. The majority of families are reporting they are not worse off since exiting, although the results on specific hardship measures are mixed, with higher rates of hardship among families after exit on many measures.