The data collection for the long-term follow-up analyses occurred in two phases. First, in early September 2001, MDRC obtained, via electronic files, publicly available divorce records names and dates of divorces that took place in the state of Minnesota from January 1994 until August 2001 from the Minnesota Supreme Court.(10) Second, in March 2003, upon completion of a contract with the Minnesota Department of Health, MDRC obtained, via electronic files, certificate records of marriages that took place in the state of Minnesota from January 1989 until December 2001. Approximately 96 percent of MFIP two-parent family recipients were randomly assigned from April 1994 to March 1995, and thus, analyses with these two data sources cover a roughly 6.5-year to 7.5-year follow-up period. The average follow-up period is shorter among MFIP two-parent family applicants, because two-parent family applicants were randomly assigned from April 1994 to March 1996, with nearly 30 percent being randomly assigned from April 1995 to March 1996.
The marriage and divorce records data were checked, cleaned, and substantially reformatted by MDRC's information specialists in order to match the names of each spouse in the marriage or divorce records data to the names of each spouse or partner in the pilot MFIP two-parent family sample. Names of respondents and their spouses in the pilot MFIP evaluation, and any variation in the spelling of these names, were obtained from Background Information Forms (BIFs) and Unemployment Insurance earnings records (from Minnesota's Department of Economic Security). The first and last name of each spouse in an MFIP two-parent family was then matched to the first and last name of each spouse in the marriage and divorce records data. In addition, information about the birth date and social security number of the bride when available and valid was used to confirm matches in the marriage records analysis.
Reports about marital status in the BIF (completed by staff in the welfare offices via client interview just prior to random assignment) and successful matches with the marriage certificate records were used to construct the marriage records file.(11, 12) Both sources were relied upon because many marriages may have taken place prior to the time period in which marriage certificates data were available for analysis, i.e., before 1989. After numerous quality checks on the data and on the matches, a total of 329 finalized divorces were found from April 1994 to August 2001 for the entire two-parent family sample (2,246 two-parent families) in the MFIP pilot evaluation, including all program and control group families. This translates to an overall divorce rate of approximately 15 percent over a roughly seven-year period for this sample. Approximately 195 finalized divorces occurred within the sample of 1,515 two-parent recipient families, for an overall divorce rate of about 13 percent, and 134 finalized divorces occurred within the sample of 731 two parent applicant families, for an overall divorce rate of 18 percent.