MFIP integrated several existing programs in the Minnesota welfare system.(3) These included not only AFDC (the core of the traditional system), but also STRIDE, the state's employment and training program for AFDC recipients (which operated on a voluntary basis for certain targeted groups); the Family General Assistance (FGA) program, a state-run program which allowed some low-income families not eligible for AFDC to qualify for welfare; and the federally funded Food Stamp Program, which provided assistance in the form of food coupons. MFIP differed from the AFDC system in three fundamental ways: (1) it decreased the extent to which families' welfare grants were reduced when they went to work, thereby making work pay more effectively; (2) it required two-parent families who had received assistance for six months in a year to participate in employment and training activities in order to continue receiving their full grants (though, because the job search/Community Work Experience Program was mandatory, the introduction of MFIP employment and training requirements was not a dramatic change for two-parent families); and (3) it simplified program rules by combining the benefits of AFDC, FGA, and the Food Stamp Program into a single program, giving food stamp benefits as part of the cash grant, and removing any work history requirements or work effort limitations that existed under the AFDC-Unemployed Parent (AFDC-UP) program.
For purposes of the evaluation, two-parent families were defined as those in which married or cohabiting parents (either biological parents or stepparents of at least one child in the family) were living in the home at the time of random assignment. These two-parent families were randomly assigned into either the MFIP group or the AFDC group at the time of recertification or application for receipt of welfare benefits. In each case, the second parent was defined by the social security number provided by the first parent when baseline forms were submitted at the time of recertification or application for receipt of welfare benefits.
All two-parent families assigned to the MFIP group received MFIP benefits, which, in addition to providing financial incentives similar to those for single-parent families, removed significant restrictions on eligibility in the AFDC-UP program, including the work history requirement and the 100-hour rule. (4) When these families had received public assistance for 6 of the previous 12 months, at least one parent was required to participate in MFIP's employment and training services. Two-parent families in the AFDC group were eligible for the benefits and services of the AFDC system (primarily AFDC-UP) (5) and the Food Stamp Program as described above.
Appendix Table 1 provides basic demographic information about the two-parent families who were members of the study sample. The majority of two-parent families in the MFIP pilot resided in urban counties in and around Minneapolis. Two-thirds of recipient families had received welfare for two years or more at the time they entered the study a longer history on welfare than was true of the national caseload in 1995, of which less than 40 percent of two-parent families had been continuously on welfare for two years or more.(6) Characteristics of recipients also differed from those of applicants in the MFIP sample. For example, nearly 80 percent of the two-parent applicant families are white, compared to 60 percent of two-parent recipient families, and close to 80 percent of applicants were married at study entry, versus 69 percent of two-parent recipient families.