Since passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996, ending "welfare as we know it" and replacing it with the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) block grants to states, the federal cash assistance caseloads have dropped by 50 percent, from 4.4 million in August, 1996 to 2.2 million in June, 2000. There is concern at the federal, state, and local levels about the well-being of the unprecedented number of families that have left welfare:
- Are leavers holding down steady jobs?
- Do they have the financial wherewithal to provide for themselves and their children?
- Are they and their children suffering hardships from hunger to homelessness?
To help address these questions, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) provided funding to 10 states and three large counties to conduct studies of families that have left the welfare rolls. Here, we review and synthesize selected findings from the 11 ASPE-funded leaver studies that have submitted interim or final reports as of October, 2000, as well as an early ASPE-funded study from Wisconsin.(1) This initial synthesis report will be followed by a more comprehensive report in Summer 2001 which will report on survey findings from additional sites not included here.