Indicators of Welfare Dependence: Annual Report to Congress, 1998. Chapter III. Predictors and Risk Factors Associated with Welfare Receipt

10/01/1998

The Welfare Indicators Act challenges the Department of Health and Human Services, and indirectly the Advisory Board on Welfare Indicators, to identify and set forth not only indicators of welfare dependence and welfare duration, but also predictors and causes of welfare receipt. Up to this point, welfare research has not established clear and definitive causes of welfare dependence. However, research has identified a number of risk factors associated with welfare utilization. For purposes of this report, the terms “predictors” and “risk factors” are used somewhat interchangeably, although the differences between them are acknowledged.

Where the Advisory Board recommended narrowing the focus of dependence indicators, it recommended an expansive view toward predictors and risk factors. The range of possible predictors is extremely wide, and until they are measured and analyzed over time as the PRWORA changes are implemented, their value will not be known. Some of the “predictors” included in this chapter may turn out to be simply correlates of welfare receipt, some may have a causal relationship, some may be consequences, and some may have predictive value.

For purposes of this report, the predictors/risk factors included in this chapter are grouped into three categories:

ECON. The first group includes measures associated with economic security. This group encompasses measures of poverty, child support receipt, food insecurity, health care coverage, household mobility, and adult incarceration. The poverty-related measures in this group include overall and child poverty rates, transitions in and out of poverty, lengths of poverty spells, events associated with entries and exits from poverty, intergenerational poverty, pre- and post-cash transfers poverty rates, and high-poverty neighborhoods. For ease of presentation, the tables and figures illustrating measures of economic security are labeled with the prefix ECON throughout this chapter.

WORK. The second grouping (labeled with the WORK prefix) includes factors related to employment and barriers to employment. Data on labor force attachment and earnings for low-skilled workers are included, as are data on barriers to work. The latter category includes incidence of adult disabilities and children with chronic health conditions, adult substance abuse, levels of educational attainment and school drop-out rates, and child care costs.

TEEN. The final group addresses behavioral issues primarily affecting teenagers. This category includes out-of-wedlock childbearing data, onset of sexual activity, teen substance abuse and arrest data, and information on teens who are neither in school nor working. The tables and figures in this subsection are labeled with the TEEN prefix.

As noted above, the predictors/risk factors included in this chapter do not represent an exhaustive list of measures. They are, in fact, a sampling of available data that address in some way the question of how a family is faring on the deprivation/well-being scale. Such questions are a necessary part of the dependence discussion during this time of major change in the welfare rules. It is important to examine whether decreases in dependence measures are accompanied by improvements in family well-being (as, for example, if work activities increase) or by reductions in family’s material circumstance (which could happen as families lose access to benefits because of time limits or sanctions).

 

 

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"Indicators of Dependence" (pdf, 152.45Kb)

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