A Profile of Families Cycling on and off Welfare. Background


The data used in the report come from five MDRC evaluations of welfare reform initiatives, including two non-experimental analyses. Three experimental (random assignment) evaluations tested several key policies that are now part of the states' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. In these evaluations, ongoing recipients or new applicants to welfare were assigned to either a program group that received the new services or financial incentives or were subject to new regulation on eligibility for welfare benefits or to a control group that was subject to the existing welfare system in the state at the time of the evaluation. New applicants for welfare were randomly assigned at the time they were applying for welfare, while ongoing recipients were randomly assigned at their eligibility re-determination interviews.

The two non-experimental analyses studied the effect of welfare reform on caseloads and recipient behavior as part of MDRC's Project on Devolution and Urban Change (hereinafter, Urban Change). These analyses utilized data on the universe of recipients who received welfare benefits at any time during the early- to late-1990s.

A brief description of the five evaluations and a summary of key findings follow below:

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