Performance Improvement 2003. Comings and Goings: The Changing Dynamics of Welfare in the 1990s


This report examined changes in the characteristics of families moving onto and off welfare, the speed with which they move on and off, and the reasons for these transitions. To do so, the researchers compared the experiences of low-income single mothers early in the 1990s under Aid to Families with Dependent Children with those of women in the mid- to late-1990s under welfare reform (both state waiver programs and programs funded under the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant). For the analysis, the researchers used the 1990 and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation supplemented with data on state welfare policies and economic conditions. The major findings were: (1) welfare participation rates for low-income single mothers declined from 45.7 to 38.1 percent between 1990 and 1996; (2) the most important factor underlying this decline in participation  was the falling real value of welfare benefits over this period; (3) during the 1990s, welfare entry rates remained relatively stable; (4) exit rates from welfare increased sharply between 1990 and 1996; (5) changes in economic conditions account for about 40 percent of the rise in exit rates while changes in welfare policies account for about 20 percent; and (6) while exit rates differ, the work behavior and food stamp receipt are similar. Roughly 64 percent of welfare "exit-ers" in the 1990 and 1996 cohorts worked in the 4-month period in which they exited the welfare program. Similarly, 47.7 percent of “exit-ers” from the 1990 cohort received food stamps compared with 51.7 percent in the 1996 cohort, which runs counter to a common impression that food stamp use among welfare “exit-ers” declined over the 1990s.

FEDERAL CONTACT: Girley Wright, 202-401-5070

PIC ID: 7530

PERFORMER: Urban Institute, Washington, DC

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