Potential Employment Liabilities Among TANF Recipients. Research Findings


As shown in the “Summary of Results” table below, research findings fall into three major areas: (1) prevalence rates for each of the 15 potential liabilities; (2) the descriptive relationship of each liability to work status; and (3) results from a multivariate analysis of the relationship of each liability and employment, net of other liabilities measured in the study.

Summary of Results
Liability Prevalence of
20% or more
Liability related
to work
effect on work
LT High School/No GED X X X
Low work experience X X X
Few job tasks X X NS
Physical health X X X
Mental health X X NS
Pregnant No X X
Chemical dependence No NS NS
Learning disability No NS NS
Criminal record No NS NS
Child with special needs X NS NS
Domestic violence No NS NS
Transportation X X NS
Childcare X X X
Housing X X NS
Neighborhood X NS NS

All three human capital deficits, three of the more health-related personal and family problems, and all four logistical or situational challenges were more common than other liabilities among TANF recipients in the study, as shown in the first column of the table. “More common” was defined as having a prevalence rate of 20 percent or more.

Fewer of these liabilities, however, were significantly related to work status, as shown in the second and third columns. For human capital investments, both work experience and education remained critical. Among personal and family challenges, physical health remained an important factor; however, while 30 percent of respondents had mental health problems, these problems were not significantly related to employment net of other factors. Similarly, the presence of a child with special health needs was fairly common among respondents; yet this family-level responsibility was not significantly related to work for TANF recipients in the study. In contrast, only a small share of the caseload reported being pregnant, yet pregnancy was significantly related to work independent of other liabilities and characteristics.

Overall, of the liabilities that were most consistently related to work — low education levels, low work experience, poor physical health, and childcare problems — were also among those liabilities that were more common among TANF recipients. These results reinforce the importance of building up employment assets such as work experience and education among TANF recipients. To achieve this, however, the results also suggest that screening and understanding more about physical health issues among recipients, as well as understanding the range of childcare issues that recipients may face, is also very important.

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