Interim Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform. Tracking Employment Outcomes Under TANF Using Matched Social Security Summary Earnings Records


The welfare reform legislation of 1996 was intended to promote independence by substituting employment for entitlement to cash benefits for adult caretakers of dependent children.  Tracking the post­1996 employment experience of adults who were receiving AFDC benefits in 1996 offers a means of assessing how well the legislation is meeting its intended goals.  One means of carrying out such tracking is to follow the post­1996 earnings of a nationally representative sample (or samples) of adults who received AFDC benefits in 1996.  A number of ongoing Bureau of the Census demographic surveys identified nationally representative samples of AFDC adult recipients in that year and have been or shortly will be exact­matched to Social Security Summary Earnings Histories.  (The three major surveys which both identified 1996 receipt of AFDC benefits by adults and have been or will be matched to SSA earnings records are the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the March 1997 Current Population Survey, and the Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD) baseline survey.)

Under this project, funds would be transferred to the Bureau of the Census to update these earnings histories subsequent to calendar year 1996 and track the presence and amount of annual earnings of 1996 adult AFDC recipients.  Depending on the survey, various demographic and personal characteristics related to employment outcomes should be available.  For example, age, race, educational attainment, and number and age of dependent children should be available from all three surveys.  Details on health status, functional and work limitations, work history, current school enrollment and job training, as well as information on the health of minor children of the adult recipient, may be available from some surveys.  Consideration will be given to combining the sample sizes from the three surveys to assess employment outcomes by age of recipient, by race and Hispanic origin, by principal levels of educational attainment, by current enrollment status, by presence of children under age two, by presence of health­related work limitations, living arrangements, work experience, etc.  Efforts will also be made to disentangle policy and labor market effects on observed outcomes.