Initial Synthesis Report of the Findings from ASPE's "Leavers" Grants. Economic Context


One would expect that when jobs are plentiful and wages are high, welfare leavers will generally fare better than during lean economic times. Table II.2 shows the 1997 unemployment rates and median incomes in the states in which the leaver studies we review were conducted. Note that we report state averages and some of the leaver studies focus more narrowly. For example, the economic conditions in Ohio may not necessarily reflect the conditions in Cuyahoga county.

Overall, we find that Wisconsin had both the lowest unemployment rate (3.7 percent) and the highest median income at $43,132. Florida had a low unemployment rate at 4.3 percent, but its median income is also among the lowest at $32,455. In contrast, the District of Columbia had both a relatively high unemployment rate (8.9 percent) and low median income ($32,382). Thus, it is clear that economic conditions vary considerably across the sites conducting the leaver studies reviewed here.


Table II.2:
Economic Characteristics of States, 1997
State Unemployment Rate (%) Median Income ($)
Arizona 5.1 35,503
District of Columbia 8.9 32,382
Florida 4.3 32,455
Georgia 4.9 35,911
Illinois 5.2 40,094
Missouri 4.8 36,676
New York 6.3 34,783
Washington 6.4 37,458
Wisconsin 3.7 43,132
Cuyahoga Co.1 4.8 36,798
Los Angeles Co.1 7.8 38,976
San Mateo Co.1 7.8 38,976
United States 5.6 36,244
1 Unemployment rate is given for the entire state.
Source: "Interpreting TANF Leaver Studies: Comparing ASPE Grantee States to the Nation as a Whole."  Mathematica Policy Research, March 27, 2000.