Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2001. Analytic Projects on Welfare-Related Topics


Synthesis of Welfare Outcomes Grants (2000)

Final reports from most of the FY 1998 State Welfare Outcomes grantees have been released, and research data sets are becoming available. We understand that there is great Congressional interest in the results from the studies funded by these grants, yet it is a challenge to synthesize findings across the different grantees. Under this project, the Urban Institute is conducting secondary data analyses of welfare outcomes measures, drawing on the state-specific data sets secured under the Technical Assistance on Researcher Access to Data Sets project. The contractor released an initial synthesis report containing both administrative and survey findings from all available reports in January 2001. In addition, the contractor is writing a final report, building on both the secondary data analyses of welfare outcomes measures and the grantees' written reports. The final report should be completed by September 2001, in time for TANF reauthorization, and will add to our ongoing efforts to report reliable state-specific measures of welfare outcomes, including outcomes in the areas of employment and income, family hardship and well-being, recidivism, and utilization of other programs.

Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2001

Trends in the Economic Well-Being of Low-Income Americans (2000)

This statistical report will show trends in income, poverty and other economic measures, such as food security and access to health insurance, with explanatory text and charts. Where possible, the book will incorporate tables using an alternative measurement of poverty based on recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences. The data book will be composed of five chapters: an overview of income and poverty; children and their families; working-age adults; the elderly; and the impacts of public programs including outcomes of welfare reform. In addition there will be appendices covering basic data from public programs serving low-income and welfare populations and alternative income and poverty measurement issues. Information will come from various sources, including the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and administrative data.

Estimated Completion Date: October 2001

Transition Events in the Dynamics of Poverty (2000)

This project will study the events associated with people entering and exiting poverty. The project will document the likelihood of entering and exiting poverty for various groups, including single working-age adults, children, families, and elderly. The project also will document the extent to which various transition events or combinations of events account for entries and exits from poverty. This project can help determine whether poverty rates are declining because fewer people are entering poverty or because more people are exiting poverty. We will also measure changes in reasons for poverty exits resulting from welfare reform. The product will be a report with transition rates and reasons by subgroup.

Estimated Completion Date: March 2002

Low-Income/Low-Skilled Workers ' Involvement in the Temporary/Contingent Employment Sector (2000)

Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that in 1997 a large proportion of workers were employed in alternative or contingent work arrangements, such as work through a temporary help agency, working for a contract company, or working on-call. Compared to other kinds of workers, contingent workers tend to have lower rates of pay, health insurance coverage and pension plan participation, and higher rates of part-time employment. The one percent of workers employed by temporary help agencies are more likely to be young, female and minority than workers in traditional arrangements (or other contingent arrangements). Many welfare recipients and welfare leavers who go to work are likely to be in the temporary worker population. Low-skilled and low-income individuals may turn to temporary employment as a measure of last resort because they can't obtain permanent positions, or by choice to accommodate personal needs such as child care or education. This project is investigating the prevalence of nonstandard employment among low-skilled and low-income populations including current, former and potential welfare recipients; identifying the most common forms of temporary positions; and exploring the reasons these temporary jobs are taken. The contractor, the Urban Institute, has produced a literature review and is conducting analysis of various data sources including the CPS, SIPP and data on industries and occupations to determine rates and trends in nonstandard work and overlap with welfare receipt.

Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2001

Mental Health and Employment (2000)

As TANF policies are moving welfare recipients into the labor force, there is growing interest and concern about the barriers that may prevent recipients from gaining and keeping employment. Mental health problems are one such barrier. Under this task order, Mathematica Policy Research will examine a number of state/local TANF programs in order to: 1) document the methods programs are using to identify, refer and treat welfare recipients with mental health problems; 2) identify approaches that are promising in assisting people with mental health problems to obtain treatment and find and keep employment; 3) highlight the issues and problems that welfare programs are grappling with as they attempt to better serve clients with mental health problems; and 4) assess the challenges and opportunities involved in collaborating with other public systems, such as the public mental health and vocational rehabilitation systems.

Estimated Completion Date: July 2001

Linking State TANF Policies to Outcomes: A Preliminary Assessment (2000)

ASPE has funded the Urban Institute to analyze and synthesize available information on state welfare and related support policies. Based on the recommendations of an advisory working group, the contractor will develop several possible classification systems that summarize and group welfare and related policies according to various characteristics (e.g., level of benefit, strictness of work mandate, generosity of work supports) expected to affect outcomes for welfare recipients and other low-income families. The resulting database will be made available to researchers interested in studying the relationships between state TANF policies and the range of outcomes experienced by current and former welfare recipients and other low-income populations.

Estimated Completion Date: August 2001

Quick Turnaround Analyses under Welfare Reform (2000)

The TANF program will be up for reauthorization in October 2002, as will be the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Food Stamp Program, and several other programs. It is anticipated that, as in the period before enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), ASPE will be called upon to contribute to the expected TANF reauthorization debates by providing analyses of policy issues and options, especially those affecting low-income children and families. Under this project, ASPE has awarded a task order contract to the Urban Institute to have the Institute perform very quick analyses of existing data sets, such as the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), data from the Urban Institute's National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), administrative data on the TANF program, state policy data, and others. Data analyses will provide information about the characteristics of children and families across a wide range of policy relevant topics, such as the effects of welfare reform on child and family well-being, transitions to employment, immigrants, poverty rates, child poverty, etc. Some of these analyses will inform policy debates on the interactions with food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and SSI; others into the impact of state policy changes made as a result of the flexibility of the TANF law. Other questions could be identified during the reauthorization process. Each question is expected to result in a deliverable of a memorandum with detailed tables.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2002

Alternative Kinship Care Programs Set up Outside of TANF and Foster Care (2000)

Families in which a grandparent or another relative has taken over parental responsibilities make up approximately one-third of both the TANF and foster care caseloads. Neither of these service systems have been set up with such families in mind, and, in many ways, the services provided are an inadequate match with families' needs. Several states have set up separate kinship care assistance programs outside the traditional structures of both the child welfare and TANF systems. This project is profiling states' efforts in order to compare and contrast the approaches states are using and how these programs help children. It will provide a broad outline of the range and scope of programs operating across the country and in-depth information on programs in six sites. The study is gathering information on why the programs were created, how they were designed and implemented (from both a logistical and political perspective), what services they provide, how they are financed, and how they operate in coordination with other state systems.

Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2001

Implementation of Welfare Reform at the Local Level: Implications for Special Populations (2000)

With the implementation of welfare reform, state and local agencies have established a variety of rules and procedures governing enrollment in TANF and Medicaid. As authority for welfare policy has devolved to state and, oftentimes, local levels, local agencies and caseworkers may have more discretion over how individual cases are handled. This study is examining the implications for special populations, particularly individuals of different backgrounds and limited English language abilities. The results of this project will provide additional information about the effects of program policy and implementation at different levels on program utilization by these special populations. The project consists of detailed case studies that examine agency policies and practices, as well as caseworker training and discretion, in six metropolitan areas, which are in the process of being identified.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2002

Understanding the Declines in Teen Birth Rate (2000)

PRWORA describes several outcomes of concern related to teen pregnancy, including an increased likelihood of dependence on public assistance, and reducing teen pregnancy is viewed as an important aspect of promoting self-sufficiency and family well-being within the context of welfare reform. Yet, as teen birth rates have fallen at an unprecedented rate since 1991, there is a debate regarding factors that have contributed to this decline. This project will use data from the National Survey of Family Growth to describe data on sexual activity, partner characteristics, and contraceptive use for women surveyed in 1995 who were teens at any time during the study period. This data will be used to create simulation models that may clarify which factors are associated with changes in teen pregnancy and births and how possible future changes in these factors might affect teen pregnancy and birth rates. Using monthly event history data, the study will observe trends in behavior between 1991 and 1995. Trend information will be presented for multiple population subgroups, including by race/ethnicity, age, and parity (whether or not they had a prior teen birth). Estimates based on event history data are being created. Work is beginning on setting up a base model to assess factors associated with a continued decline in the teen birth rate.

Estimated Completion Date: December 2001

How Low-Wage Working Families Cope as Parents and Workers (2000)

Low-wage working families face multiple demands as workers and as parents. Besides working, low-income parents in both single and two-parent families need time for training and education, navigating complex health and support services, parenting, and managing their children's needs. Some low-wage working parents are also providing care for family members who are elderly or who have special needs. Employers often require that low-wage workers work non-standard and irregular hours. There are numerous questions about what is going on in the lives of these parents, including those who are teen parents and those leaving TANF assistance and entering the labor force for the first time. This project, jointly sponsored by ASPE and ACF, will look at coping mechanisms and examine a variety of factors that may help or hinder a family's efforts to be self sufficient, including formal and informal support services, social support networks, time management, money management and other life skills. The project also will investigate what is happening to children, and how they are being cared for when parents, for example, have to work changing shifts. The project will commission a set of research papers, convene a conference of researchers and policy makers, and disseminate a conference volume. The working conference will be held November 13-14, 2001, and the conference volume should be completed by February 2002.

Estimated Completion Date: Winter 2002

From Prisons to Home: The Effect of Incarceration on Children, Families, and Low-Income Communities (2000)

A majority of incarcerated men and women are parents, and the impact of incarceration appears to be greatest in poor, minority, urban communities. The toll on children, families, and communities has caused increasing concern, and a growing realization that families served by TANF and other Department of Health and Human Services programs are families who are also more likely to experience the effects of incarceration. This project will produce a literature review, commissioned papers, and a conference in order to develop a research and practice baseline on what is known and knowable about this high-risk, high-welfare use population. Specifically, the project will focus on five issues: 1) support for continued parenting of children, including living arrangements for children during and after incarceration; 2) loss of financial resources, including issues of TANF eligibility, unemployment, and child support payments; 3) the possibility of losing custody or having parental rights terminated because of incarceration, especially when related to drug and alcohol addictions; 4) lack of availability of appropriate treatment programs for substance abuse and mental illness, both within the prison system and post-release; and 5) integration of inmate rehabilitation services with post-release community interventions for the inmate and his/her children and families. Related issues, such as the effect of pre- and post-incarceration interventions on welfare usage, will also be addressed. An interagency, multi-disciplinary Technical Review Group met in February 2001 to provide recommendations for the project. Planning for the commissioned papers and the conference are now underway.

Estimated Completion Date: June 2002

Poor Families with Infants and Toddlers (2000)

Low-income parents of infants and toddlers are challenged to balance work or school activities with the responsibilities of nurturing their young children. These challenges affect parents who are receiving welfare in the post-PRWORA environment as well as former recipients and the working poor. In order to meet their responsibilities, these families need access to high quality child care that fits their work schedules as well as other supportive services. Despite what we know about the particular challenges facing poor families with infants and toddlers, we know little about how these families are faring in the aftermath of welfare reform and whether states and communities have developed strategies to provide them with high quality child care and other services. In this project, we are studying strategies which states and communities are pursuing to provide high quality child care and other support services for welfare and working poor families with infants and toddlers. Some of these strategies are being evaluated. The result of this effort will go beyond the few existing basic descriptions of these strategies to provide analysis of how these initiatives have been structured, promising practices or areas of concern, and key outcomes which have been measured. It will also provide a much needed synthesis of the available research evidence and identify measures which have been used to document improvement for use in future evaluations and monitoring efforts.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2002

Enhancement of the Study of Trends in Emergency Assistance Related to TANF (2000) (incorporates Trends in the Demand for Assistance Services, 1999)

The 1999 funded project, Trends in the Demand for Assistance Services, jointly funded with the Office of Program Systems (PS) within ASPE, examines the trends in the demand for emergency assistance services, such as homeless shelters and food banks, from the mid-1990's to 2000. There are two grants, one covering the State of Massachusetts (conducted by the University of Massachusetts) and the other in San Mateo County, California (conducted by the SPHERE Institute). Researchers are collecting information from providers of these services and other socioeconomic data in order to examine the changing patterns of usage during the period of economic expansion and declining welfare caseloads before and after welfare reform. The final reports will provide information on whether welfare reform is associated with any change in the demand for emergency services. Both projects are now drafting final reports.

In order to provide a more extensive analysis of changes in demand for emergency services, the Office of Program Systems and HSP jointly funded an Intra-Agency Agreement with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during FY 2000. SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services also added funding to the Agreement. SAMHSA has awarded a contract to the Gallup Organization that adds two sites to this analysis — Spokane, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The sites are using timeframes and emergency assistance analyses that are consistent with the above grants. The contract is being jointly monitored by ASPE and SAMHSA. Preliminary data are expected by late Summer 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2001

Welfare Reform and the Health and Economic Status of Immigrants and the Organizations that Serve Them (1998 and 1999)

ASPE and other federal agencies contributed funds in 1998 and 1999 to award a grant to the Urban Institute to deepen our understanding of the impact of recent changes in Federal laws on immigrant families and children by conducting a large-scale study of immigrants and their communities in Los Angeles and New York City.

See Results/Findings and <> for information on accomplishments to date.

Estimated Completion Date: October 2001

In a related effort, ASPE funds were also used to support the Urban Institute's updating of the TRIM modeling program (used to simulate welfare caseload changes resulting from changes in various policy variables) to include parameters about immigrants, and as a subset, refugees and non-refugees, using 1995 data as a baseline. This updated model could be used to estimate the rates of participation in TANF, Medicaid, and Food Stamps by children, both citizen and immigrant, who live in immigrant- and citizen-headed households.

Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2001

Welfare Reform and Its Implications for Persons with Disabilities (1998)

This project is a supplement to an ongoing four-year study of the implications of welfare reform for low-income families living in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio (a summary of the study is available at <>). The broader study is being undertaken by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Pennsylvania State University, Harvard University, University of Chicago, and the University of Texas-Austin. Funds are being used to explore how welfare reform is affecting the lives of a particularly vulnerable subset of the welfare population — adults and children with disabilities. This will be accomplished by conducting longitudinal case studies of families with members with disabilities receiving TANF and through a broader survey effort. The purpose of the data collection efforts is to better understand how recent work participation requirements and time limits under welfare reform are affecting service utilization, family member's health and development, support networks, parenting, and child care arrangements.

ASPE, the Administration for Children and Families, and the Administration on Developmental Disabilities are the primary funders of the disability component of the study. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development is the primary funder of the broader study, along with several private foundations. Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins University, is the principal investigator. The first round of interviews for the main survey were conducted from March 1999 until December 1999. Fieldwork in the ethnography component began in fall 1999 and is ongoing. Results from the project will be available over the course of the study. Listed below are the current publications from the broader study; results from the ethnographies focused on disability will be available later.

Accomplishments to date:

Sanctions and Case Closings for Noncompliance: Who is Affected and Why?, February 2001 — Policy Brief 01-1

The Diversity of Welfare Leavers, September 2000 — Policy Brief 00-02

What Welfare Recipients Know About the New Rules and What They Have to Say About Them, July 2000 — Policy Brief 00-1

Estimated Completion Date: 2003