This study examined the post-welfare experiences of two cohorts of welfare leavers: a group who exited welfare in Fall 1996 (pre-CalWORKs) and a group who exited welfare in Fall 1998 (post-CalWORKs). Welfare and other public benefit receipt and employment were tracked using administrative data for approximately 27,000 leavers. To provide detail unavailable through administrative records, a sample of 340 Fall 1998 leavers were selected for in-depth interviews, of which 62 percent completed a mixed- mode survey. This was one of the 13 studies of welfare leavers funded by ASPE. With respect to demographics, the two cohorts of leavers looked very similar. However, the post-CalWORKs leavers had more employment experience during the year prior to leaving welfare, possibly due to work requirements and expanded earned income disregards. During the year after exit, 52 percent of pre-CalWORKs leavers and 59 percent of the post-CalWORKs leavers worked at least one quarter. Both cohorts experienced low earnings and modest earnings growth during their first year off of welfare. Most were not earning enough to lift their families out of poverty without other sources of income. For the survey sample, where household income is available, the average monthly income was above the poverty level -- $1,466. However, 54 percent were living in households with income below the poverty level. There were substantial increases in post-exit participation in Medicaid. 92 percent of the post-CalWORKs leavers received Medi-Cal, compared with 65 percent of the pre-CalWORKs leavers. Most of this increase was due to gains among those who stayed off welfare, but received Medi-Cal. Gains in Food Stamp participation were more modest. Leavers who did not work after exit, or worked only some quarters, were more likely to report multiple barriers to employment than those who worked steadily. They also reported higher levels of hardship, and were more likely to receive assistance from government agencies or other sources. However, even those who worked steadily reported significant hardships.
PIC ID: 7754.01
Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy
Federal Contact: Lower- Basch, Elizabeth, 202-690-6808
Performer: MDRC, New York, NY