Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Percentage of Those Required to Work with Earnings


This measure reports on the proportion of the TANF adult caseload that is required to work and that has earnings. This measure differs from those discussed above because it would measure the employment level only for those TANF recipients who are required to work and would include both individuals who find jobs as well as those who were already working. Because it includes all individuals on the caseload who are working, it is closely related to the current participation rate.

The statute governing the TANF program allows states to exempt certain individuals from the work participation rate - primarily individuals with a child under age one and disabled individuals in two-parent families - while the remainder of the caseload is required to work. In addition, states with a work program waiver in effect prior to the enactment of TANF are allowed to continue with their prior (and broader) exemption policies. Because it includes only individuals whom the state is attempting to move into employment, this type of measure may more accurately reflect a state's success in moving individuals into work compared to a job entry rate based on the entire adult caseload.

Measurement issues. A determination would have to be made whether those considered "required to work" would be measured according to the definition provided in the federal TANF statute or whether states operating under waivers with broader exemption policies could use their own definitions. Both definitions are problematic in some respect. If the federal definition is used, states operating under pre-existing waivers with broader exemption policies of their own may not perform as well on the measure because some of their exempt cases would technically be "required to work" under the federal statute. Similarly, if each state used its own definition of "required to work," it would be difficult to compare outcomes across states because of the differences in the populations being served.

Data issues. Like the other work-based measures, UI or NDNH records are the best source of data for this measure. For this measure the TANF adult caseload that is required to work (rather than the entire adult caseload) would be matched to UI or NDNH records. Since the final TANF regulations require states to track whether individuals are required to work, this should not impose a new or significant burden.

Fairness issues. There are a number of factors that would have uneven effects on state performance on this measure. As discussed above, the existing differences in state exemption policies because of pre-existing waiver policies create an unequal playing field for this measure. It may not be possible to compare state performance equitably given the differences in their current exemption policies. In addition, the generosity of earnings disregards and cash grant levels affect the ability and willingness of individuals to combine work and welfare when they find jobs. Finally, like the other employment-related measures discussed above, the health of a state's economy and the relative number of hard-to-serve (i.e., disadvantaged) individuals in its caseload will affect performance on this type of measure.