Report on Alternative Outcome Measures: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Block Grant . Consultation

In keeping with the Department's commitment to a broad consultation strategy used throughout the development of TANF-related regulations, HHS hosted a consultation meeting on July 21, 1999 with representatives from states and research and advocacy organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to identify and discuss some potential outcomes measures that could be used to evaluate state performance as an alternative to the minimum participation rates. All states were invited to send representatives, as were a substantial number of research and advocacy organizations with whom the Department has consulted on other TANF issues, including the development of state guidance on the High Performance Bonus. About half the states participated, as well as almost 20 research and advocacy organizations and several federal agencies. A list of states and organizations represented is included in Appendix B, along with a more detailed summary of the consultation meeting.

The objectives of the consultation were to discuss:

  • the overall goals related to work that should be promoted through performance measures (e.g., employment, earnings, income, self-sufficiency, marriage);
  • specific measures that might be used to promote these goals without creating perverse incentives;
  • whether timely and accurate data are available for these measures at a reasonable cost;
  • the appropriateness of linking performance measures to penalties and/or bonuses at the state level; and
  • whether outcome-based performance measures should be applied on a national or state-by-state basis.

A major topic of discussion by the group was whether outcome-based performance measures should be focused only on the goal of moving recipients off welfare through employment, or whether they should address the other goals of TANF as well. Participants suggested measures representing a wide range of outcomes of interest, falling roughly into nine broad categories:

  • work participation and employment;
  • poverty and movement to self-sufficiency;
  • requirements for two-parent families;
  • duration of welfare receipt;
  • caseload reductions;
  • child outcomes;
  • supportive services;
  • customer satisfaction; and
  • educational outcomes.

Most of the participants were open in principle to measuring state performance across the wider range of TANF goals, but there was no consensus on which goals were most important. The first two categories of outcomes (i.e., work participation and employment and poverty and movement to self-sufficiency) were the focus of most of the discussion, along with identification of some specific measures that might be used to promote achievement of the desired outcomes. Discussion of the broader data issues affecting the measures (e.g., is it available, how much does it cost to collect it, is it accurate and precise at the state level, is it reported frequently and in a timely manner?) was limited, although in general, states expressed reservations about any measures that would increase their data collection and reporting burden or change their data requirements in the short term.

Efforts to identify the "preferred" and "least favorite" measures among those generated through the brainstorming session revealed fairly substantial differences between the group of state representatives and the group of representatives from research and advocacy organizations. State representatives favored a limited set of core measures, such as those used for the first two years of the High Performance Bonus under the interim guidance. They suggested that states should have the option whether to compete on additional measures, such as progression along the poverty continuum, a measure of the percent of those required to work who have earnings, and welfare recidivism. On the other hand, the researchers and advocates favored multiple measures in order to reflect the wide range of possible goals under TANF, such as a measure of labor market success, a broader measure of program participation, a measure of extreme child poverty, and a measure of the provision of supportive services. There was widespread agreement among all participants, however, that the two-parent work participation rate was a "least favorite" measure.

The summary of the highlights of the consultation, which was shared with all participants and consultation invitees, is at Appendix B.



1.  Section 408(a)(7)(C) of the Social Security Act, as amended by PRWORA, provides for an exemption from the 60 month time limit for individuals who have been "battered or subjected to extreme cruelty." See page 17 of this report for a discussion of the domestic violence provisions of TANF.