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


Table 9 presents data on income and material hardship. Despite some of the large differences in demographic characteristics, the two groups of leavers had similar incomes at the time of the survey, although nonworkers had a slightly higher poverty rate. Nonworkers appear to have made up for the lack of earnings with other income sources. For example, they were more likely to have returned to welfare by the time of the survey (41.8 percent versus 31.4 percent) and were9 more likely to rely on other income sources and the earnings of other adults in the household.9 Nonworkers were somewhat more likely to be married at the time of the survey, but the difference is small, which suggests that they were not more likely to leave welfare because of marriage. It is sometimes hypothesized that many people who leave welfare without apparent work have simply left for marriage or cohabitation. These data suggest otherwise. Finally, nonworkers generally reported lower levels of material hardship than workers, although more of them reported being food-insufficient.

Table 9
Working Leavers Versus Nonworking Leavers:
Household Income and Material Hardship
Worked after welfare exit
Did not work after welfare exit
Difference between working and nonworking leavers
Income and Poverty in the Month Before the Survey
Total Income ($) 1.554 1.473 81.0 *
Poverty status (%)
Income below poverty
40.2 45.1 -4.9 **
Income below 50% of poverty
9.7 11.9 -2.2 **
Household income sources (%)
AFDC/TANF 31.4 41.8 -10.4 **
Food Stamps 48.0 53.8 -5.8 **
Child support
21.7 13.3 8.4 **
Other income 29.6 35.5 -6.0 **
Respondent's earnings 69.0 36.1 32.9 **
Other household earnings 31.2 35.4 -4.3 **
Household composition (%)
Currently married 7.4 9.4 -2.0 **
Not married, but other adults in household 18.3 18.2 0.2
Material Hardship
Material hardship in prior year (%)
Did not pay full amount of rent/mortgage
34.1 30.1 4.0
Evicted for not paying rent/mortgage
5.2 2.7 2.5 *
Did not pay full amount for utilities
40.3 32.2 8.1 **
Utilities shut off 14.1 12.3 1.8
Telephone shut off 31.1 30.7 0.4
Could not see doctor
23.1 25.1 -2.0
Could not see dentist 36.5 27.9 8.6 **
Number of hardships 1.8 1.6 0.2 **
Food insufficient in prior month  (%) 10.9 16.0 -5.1 **
Sample size 2.437 1.121  
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from survey data from the evaluations listed in Table 1.  
NOTES:  This 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.

The category “other income” includes pension income, disability income, and any source of income not covered by the other categories.  


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