Leavers, Stayers, and Cyclers An Analysis of the Welfare Caseload. Characteristics

11/01/2002

Table 8 presents demographic characteristics and employment barriers for working and nonworking welfare leavers. A glance through the differences shows that nonworkers are, not surprisingly, more disadvantaged than workers; 55.0 percent of nonworkers do not have a high school diploma, compared with only 40.9 percent of workers. The bottom panel of the table shows the importance of prior work experience as a predictor of subsequent work; 67.7 percent of nonworkers did not work in the year prior to random assignment—a proportion that is substantially higher than for both workers (41.5 percent) and stayers (see Table 3). Nonworkers are also older than workers, and more of them have a youngest child who is age 15 or older, suggesting that more of this group lost eligibility for welfare because their children “aged-out,” or turned 18. This type of difference may not have much to do with employability, but it may have implications for how these families fare after leaving welfare.

Finally, Table 8 shows markedly different rates of Food Stamp use; 23.1 percent of nonworkers stayed on Food Stamps, compared with 42.8 percent of workers. It is not clear why take-up rates for nonworkers are so low. It may be the case that people who leave welfare without work are the most likely to lose touch with caseworkers as they exit. When recipients fail to show up for redetermination interviews, caseworkers often terminate both their cash and their Food Stamp benefits (Quint and Widom, 2001).8

Table 8
Working Leavers Versus Nonworking Leavers:
Demographic Characteristics and Barriers to Employment
 
Characteristics Worked after welfare exit Did not work after welfare exit
Difference between 
working and nonworking leavers
Demographics
Age (%) 
Younger than 25 21.4 15.6 5.8 **
25-35 49.8 49.2 0.6
Older than 35 28.8/ 35.2 -6.4 **
Education (%)
Less than 12 years 40.9 55.0 -14.1 **
High school graduate 59.1 45.0 14.1 **
Number of children (%)
None or one 43.8 40.6 3.2 **
Two or more 56.2 59.4 -3.2 **
Age of youngest child (%)
Younger than 6 56.0 51.8 4.2  **
15 or older
6.5 10.4 -3.9 **
Race / Ethnicity (%)
 Black 42.4 31.4 11.0 **
Hispanic 11.9 17.0 -5.1 **
White 45.7 51.6 -5.9 **
Marital status (%)
Never married 46.1 36.8 9.3 **
Other
53.9 63.2 -9.3 **
Housing status (%)
Public or subsidized 23.0 15.8 7.2 **
Private or other
77.0 84.2 -7.2 **
Stayed on Food Stamps after exit 42.8 23.1 19.7
Employment
Could not work at random  assignment due to:
Child care problems 56.3 62.6 -6.3 **
Transportation problems 31.5 45.4 -13.9 **
Health or emotional problems 17.6 30.2 -12.6 **
Did not work in year prior to
random assignment
41.5 67.7 -26.2 **
Number of Potential Barriers to Employment
0 or 1 17.0 8.9 8.1 **
2 or 3 43.7 35.9 7.8 **
4 19.8 21.6 -1.8 **
5 or more 19.5 33.6 -14.1 **
Sample size 10.358 5880  
 
SOURCE:   MDRC calculations from administrative records, Baseline Information Forms and 
Private Opinion Surveys from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
NOTES:  The analysis is restricted to the individuals in the Program Group.
                The data are weighted to reflect the size of the welfare caseload in each state.  

8Alternatively, it may be the case that some of the people defined as nonworking leavers moved out of state when they left welfare. Since UI earnings records and Food Stamp data would not be available for these families, they would be defined as not working and as not receiving Food Stamps.  

 

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