We used a purposive sampling process to select families for the case studies; consequently, findings from the case studies cannot be generalized to the entire LBP population. Our objective for the sampling process was to select families with a broad range of experiences. The first step was to classify the LBP Survey respondents into three categories according to the survey interviewers' subjective assessments of their overall level of coping with the loss of cash assistance: (1) coping adequately; (2) struggling but coping; (3) in trouble, having great difficulty. An item in the survey instrument required the interviewer to classify each respondent into one of these categories following the interview. Based on the interviewers' assessments, 31 respondents were in category one, 63 were in category two, and 43 were in category three.
The next step in the sampling process was to identify survey respondents in each of the three coping categories who would be most likely to provide quality information for the case studies. To make this determination, we used a second item in the LBP Survey instrument that required the interviewer to rate each respondent along several dimensions related to data quality following the interview. For each of the respondents, we computed a composite quality rating based on the interviewer's assessment of her (all of the respondents were women) understanding of the questions, her accuracy of responses, her interest in the survey, and overall quality of the data she provided. We then selected the 10 respondents in each coping category (a total of 30) with the highest composite ratings as the potential subjects of the case studies.
We sought to conduct case-study interviews with 4 persons in each of the 3 coping categories, for a total of 12 interviews. Letters were sent to the 30 selected LBP Survey respondents, outlining the purpose of the case-study interview, offering a $50 payment for completing the interview, and asking interested persons either to fill out and return the enclosed response card or to call ISED's toll-free telephone number. We first attempted to interview persons who had responded by mail or by telephone, and then turned to the remaining persons in the group of 30 as necessary until we reached our goal for completed interviews.
Interviews lasting 60 to 90 minutes were conducted during May and June of 1996 in the homes of the participating parents and their families. These interviews occurred either shortly before, during, or shortly after the twelth month on the LBP for these families. A simple protocol consisting of eight general topics provided a structure for the interviews, which were tape recorded and then transcribed.
Based on the in-depth information provided during the interviews, we reclassified the survey respondents (parents) interviewed for the case studies into the three coping categories described above. Specifically, this reclassification was based on a comprehensive assessment of the parent's sense of hopefulness for the future, the parent's ability to meet her family's basic needs for food, shelter, and clothing, and the overall stability of her family's situation. The correspondence between the LBP Survey interviewer's initial classification and our final classification is high, but several of the 12 respondents did have different initial and final classifications.(1) The case-study subjects in the three final coping categories can be characterized as follows:
- Category One--Coping Adequately Without Benefits. Parents in this highest coping category are characterized by self-confidence, ability to plan, a sense of hope, and an orientation toward the future. The case-study interviews show that they have stable housing arrangements and incomes, as well as strong support from family and friends. These parents are committed to being independent from public assistance. They voluntarily entered the LBP and are focusing on achieving independence rather than on returning to FIP.
- Category Two--Struggling But Coping. Parents in this middle coping category are less self-confident, less hopeful, and have less sense of control over their futures than parents in category one. These parents are having greater difficulties meeting the basic needs of their families. Both their incomes and housing arrangements are more fragile. Some parents in this group also voluntarily entered the LBP, but they tend to be more ambivalent about returning to FIP than those in category one. They often have strong support from family or friends that enables them to cope without FIP. This suggests not so much a move to independence as a shift in dependency--from public assistance to family and friends.
- Category Three--In Trouble, Having Great Difficulty. Parents in this lowest coping category are even less self-confident, less hopeful, and have less of a sense of control over their futures than parents in category two. Most were assigned to the LBP because they failed to participate in PROMISE JOBS. Their housing arrangements and incomes tend to be unstable. They struggle to meet the daily needs of their families, sometimes to the point where it is necessary for their children to live with others. They seem overwhelmed and in some cases immobilized by the task of surviving without FIP benefits. These parents typically plan to return to FIP and therefore focus more on fulfilling the PROMISE JOBS participation requirements than on achieving independence.