Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Measures of Child and Family Well-Being

12/01/2000

The well-being measures address the first TANF goal of providing assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes. They assess state performance in taking action to ensure that low-income working families continue to receive the supports they need so that they may provide food, health care, child care and other basic needs for their children. These measures also address the goal of ending the dependence of needy parents on government benefits by promoting job preparation and work, because in many cases, low-income parents need aid from government programs - particularly health care coverage, assistance in purchasing food, and support in paying for child care - in order to work. Assistance from these programs helps make it possible for families to move off welfare into employment and to progress on the job toward eventual full independence.

Measures of child and family well-being, while carefully monitored at the national level, have traditionally been difficult to measure at the state level. The Current Population Survey (CPS) is currently the best source of annual data for well-being measures at the national level, but its comparatively small sample sizes limit its ability to measure state-specific outcomes except in a few, large states. Various small area estimation techniques are currently used by the Census Bureau and others to produce reliable state-by-state estimates, including combining and averaging three or four years of data into "moving averages." Unfortunately, moving averages make it difficult to track improvement or declines in state performance over short periods of time.

If it is implemented as planned, the American Community Survey (ACS) would be the preferred data source for well-being measures. We anticipate that nationwide data appropriate to calculate state-by-state performance measures will be available for 2000. Once it is in full operation, the ACS (based on the decennial census long form) will be available every year for areas and population groups of 65,000 or more. It should be noted that use of any measure that relies on the ACS is contingent upon the continued availability of the new Census Bureau data. Appendix D includes descriptions of these and other national surveys.