Private Employers and TANF Recipients. 1.2  The Questions Addressed by this Study

05/25/2004

The heart of this project is a review of the research literature pertinent to employers and TANF recipients, and of the surveys and other data sources important to carrying out this research. The review is organized around the following questions:

  1. What types of employers are most likely to hire or to be interested in hiring TANF recipients (e.g., industries, firm size, and locations of these employers)? To what extent do employers target TANF recipients when trying to hire low-skill and entry-level workers?
  2. What do employers relying on low-skill, entry-level workers do to employ TANF recipients successfully (e.g., types of training, mentoring, employee assistance programs, scheduling and leave policies, child care, promoting work supports, health insurance, transportation assistance, career development)?
  3. Why do employers hire or make an effort to hire TANF recipients (e.g., labor shortage, satisfaction with past hires, social responsibility, labor and community relations)?
  4. Why do employers fail to hire or make an effort to hire TANF recipients (e.g., perceptions of recipients, dissatisfaction with past hires, location inaccessible to many recipients, more experienced/skilled workers needed and/or available, difficulty accommodating recipients' care-giving responsibilities)?
  5. Which segments of the TANF population present the greatest challenges (e.g., recipients with limited skills, criminal records, substance abuse problems)?
  6. What would enable employers to increase and improve their efforts (e.g., better screening of recipients by intermediary organizations, stronger public/private partnerships, enhanced tax credits, greater technical assistance)?

The study team's search for research-based answers to these questions evaluated three types of studies. The first is employer-focused research, including qualitative and quantitative studies of employer recruiting, screening, hiring, assessment, and other practices. We concentrate on employer practices vis-à-vis TANF recipients, although these practices are often indistinguishable from practices affecting low-wage, low-skill workers more generally.

The second type of research examines the experiences of TANF recipients and other low-wage, low-skill workers. Most of these studies have estimated labor market outcomes and impacts for welfare recipients. Although most of these studies typically have focused on factors that affect labor supply (i.e., the employment of TANF recipients and workers) some also have examined the behavior of employers. These studies typically examine both labor supply and demand in particular markets and, within these markets, the experience of specific groups of employees or employers. While this project focuses on TANF recipients, it also considers the role of TANF recipients in the workplace in the broader context of the labor market.

The third type of research, studies of labor market intermediaries, examines neither employees nor employers, but the organizations that facilitate matches between the two. Intermediaries serve "dual customers" (i.e., employees and employers) typically by providing training and placement help to the former and screening and referrals to the latter. However, given the newness of this concept and the range of organizations that may be called "intermediaries" (e.g., welfare agencies, employment offices, outsourcing suppliers including temporary employment agencies, community colleges, technical schools, labor unions, and a variety of community-based organizations providing services to job seekers, employees, and/or employers) a consensus on intermediary functions and their impact has yet to emerge.

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