State welfare reform waiver studies are an integral part of the on-going welfare reform and social sciences research and evaluation agenda supported by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) under section 1110 and section 413(h) of the Social Security Act, as amended. A central focus of ACF’s overall welfare reform research and evaluation strategy is to develop reliable, credible information about how different strategies are working in order to inform the flexible state policy choices permitted under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Moving families from welfare to work, persistence and progression in employment and the wellbeing of children are major focal areas. In addition to examining the impacts of welfare reform on families and children, issues affecting the affordability and quality of child care and labor force attachment for lowincome families are central topics. Similarly, studies have been initiated to increase understanding of the effects of transitions in health and human services on other special populations — teens, Native Americans, victims of domestic violence, and rural populations among others.
Welfare reform waiver studies are part of this broad agenda. Prior to TANF, 43 states were granted waivers to demonstrate new approaches in welfare with agreements to conduct rigorous evaluations using random sample study designs. By comparing the experimental and control groups over time in the welfare reform waiver studies, the causal effect of a state’s reform effort on such key outcomes as welfare dependency, employment and earnings, total family income, and family structure can be reliably determined. Similarly, studies begun as state waiver demonstration evaluations prior to TANF which have been modified continue to be of interest. This mix of evaluations will allow the Department to examine the process of, and in some cases the impacts related to, implementing a variety of state approaches to welfare reform, including policies related to work and personal responsibility and time limiting assistance.
Given the breadth of policy choices available to states under the TANF program without waivers, and the fact that 23 welfare reform waiver studies are being supported with other Department funds, ASPE determined that significant new investments in waiver studies are not necessary at this time. The grant awarded to South Carolina (mentioned above and described in Appendix A) in 1998 to determine the status of TANF recipients after they leave the TANF caseload is an expansion of its welfare reform waiver study. Four other states (Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin) that received 1998 grants to study the status of TANF recipients after they leave the caseload are also conducting waiver studies.