A Profile of Families Cycling on and off Welfare. Comparison to the national welfare caseload

04/01/2004

The five welfare samples in this report do not represent a random sample of the national caseload. Most notably, all sites are located in the eastern half of the nation. In other ways, however, the sites encompass much of the variation of welfare populations across the U.S. The full sample includes welfare recipients from one of the nation's largest urban centers (Philadelphia), several medium-sized cities (and surrounding suburbs), and some rural areas (especially, Vermont). Sample members also come from states with relatively high welfare grants (Connecticut and Vermont), low welfare grants (Florida and Ohio), and grants near the national average (Pennsylvania).

To measure the representativeness of the full sample, we compare the background characteristics of the full samples to published data on the characteristics of single adult welfare recipients in the national caseload. For this comparison, we use data from FY 1996 (15), which falls within the sample intake period in three sites and begins shortly after the last month of intake in the other two. Members of the full sample closely resemble adults in the national caseload in sample members' gender, age, and average number of children, but had a somewhat higher percentage of children below the age of six. The full sample contains a larger percentage of whites and African-Americans and a smaller percentage of Hispanics than adults in the national caseload. Finally, members of the full sample were much more likely to be new recipients and to have entered assistance with a recent work history compared with adults in the national caseload. These similarities and differences should be kept in mind when making generalizations of the findings of this report.

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