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

11/01/2002

The results so far show that the average welfare leaver faced fewer barriers to employment than the average stayer and, as of the follow-up survey, had somewhat higher income. But what about leavers who are not “average”? Focusing on the average may mask the fact that many people who leave welfare do not fare well. The previous section showed, for example, that half of leavers did not work in the year prior to random assignment; almost half faced four or more potential barriers to work; and about 40 percent had incomes below the poverty line. This section focuses on a group that may not fare well after leaving and one that has been the subject of growing concern—people who are not working when they leave welfare.

Table 7 presents information on employment among leavers. Work status is defined using administrative records data. A potential limitation of these data is that they miss employment for some low-wage workers and for people who work out of state. About one-third of the7 leavers did not work in the first few months after their welfare exit.7 Among this group, only 16 percent were working in month 12 after their exit. In contrast, among those who did work in the first few months after leaving welfare, 79 percent were also working in month 12. This pattern suggests that work status at the point of leaving welfare is a good predictor of longer-term employment. Thus, for the following analyses, nonworkers are defined as leavers who did not work in the first few months after exit.

Table 7
Patterns of Work Among Welfare Leavers
 
Category Percent
Percent who had no UI-reported earnings in first 4 months after exit 36
Percent of these leavers who were working at month 12 after exit 16
Average number of months employed in year after exit 0.85
Percent who had UI-reported earnings during the first 4 months after exit 64
Percent of these leavers who were working at month 12 after exit 79
Average number of months employed in year after exit 10.2
Sample size 16.505
 
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from administrative records 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.  

 

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