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

In this section, we consider selected outcome measures that could potentially be used to measure the performance of states' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs. In order to assess the feasibility of using these alternative measures to gauge the success of state TANF programs, we examine several issues for each potential measure:

  • What the indicator will measure and its relationship to the goals of the TANF program;
  • Measurement issues that should be considered when defining how the indicator should be calculated;
  • A brief discussion of the availability, quality, and timeliness of data to calculate the measure, particularly on a state-by-state basis (see Appendix D for more detail on a variety of potential data sources); and
  • Issues related to the "fairness" of the measure, i.e., whether states are able to perform on equal footing with other states, and whether the TANF agency can reasonably be expected to affect the outcome. (The general questions of whether outcome-based performance measures accurately reflect program effectiveness, and how to adjust standards in order to compensate for differences in economic and socio-demographic factors are not discussed here.)

The measures considered below are not a comprehensive listing of possible alternative outcome measures, but are a representative sample of measures which focus on the goals that were of high priority to most participants in the consultation process: employment, child and family well-being, and the formation and stability of two-parent families. Within the context of these goals, we selected measures that seemed both salient and possible. In some cases, the proposed measures may be more accurately described as interim outcome measures or output measures, rather than true outcome measures. Several are based upon those measures being used for the TANF High Performance Bonus. We did not include measures that are already being used for other bonuses, such as the child support incentives, because the participants in the consultation generally agreed that it did not make sense to credit (or punish) states twice for the same performance under separate systems.
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Table 1:
Potential Alternative Performance Measures for the TANF Program
Potential Performance Measure Primary Data Source(s)*
Employment Related Measures
Job Entry Rate for TANF Recipients UI Records (linked to TANF administrative records)
Employment Retention Rate for TANF Recipients UI Records (linked to TANF administrative records)
Earnings Gains for TANF Recipients UI Records (linked to TANF administrative records)
Percentage of Those Required to Work with Earnings UI Records (linked to TANF administrative records)
Recidivism Rate for TANF Leavers Linked state TANF administrative records
Measures of Child and Family Well-Being
Food Stamp ReceiptВ 
  • Percent of families eligible for Food Stamps that receive themВ 
  • Percent of poor children who are in working families that receive Food Stamps
  • Percent of former TANF recipients receiving Food Stamps
American Community Survey, Food Stamp administrative data (linked to TANF administrative records)
Medicaid/SCHIP ReceiptВ 
  • Percent of families eligible for Medicaid/SCHIP that receive the benefit
  • Percent of poor children who are in working families that receive Medicaid/SCHIP
  • Percent of former TANF recipients receiving Medicaid/SCHIP
American Community Survey, Medicaid/SCHIP administrative data (linked to TANF administrative records)
Child Care Affordability and QualityВ 
  • Percent of eligible children receiving child care subsidies
Child Care Development Fund administrative data, linked to American Community Survey
Receipt of TANF and other types of transitional assistance by needy families American Community Survey, state administrative data
Extreme Poverty Rate American Community Survey
Family Formation/Stability Measures
Percentage of Children Living in Married Couple Homes American Community Survey
Out-of-Wedlock Birth Rate for TANF Families State TANF administrative data, National Center for Health Statistics
* See Appendix D for a description of the characteristics of various survey and administrative data sources.