Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2001. Crosscutting/Multi-topic Areas

08/17/2001

Building and enhancing state and local capacity for data collection and monitoring studies remains integral to HSP's efforts. We plan to continue supporting state-level data collection efforts, administrative data linking, and the creation of public-use and restricted-access data files. We also hope to continue to play an important role in facilitating efforts to build data collection and research capacities, provide technical assistance to improve the quality of research results, ensure more uniformity and comparability across studies, and synthesize results across state and local level monitoring studies. The following new projects and continuation efforts are included in our FY 2001 plan:

State Studies on TANF Caseload

The project will fund several state or local area studies of the characteristics of the TANF caseload including potential barriers to employment that welfare recipients may face. The studies will focus on the current TANF caseload at a given point in time and will thus include both recipients who have entered recently and those who have remained on welfare for a longer period of time. States competing for funding will be asked to conduct surveys on a sample of the current caseload to gather information about recipients' characteristics at the personal, family and community level. Topics to be covered may include: (1) demographic characteristics; (2) employment and economic outcomes; and (3) potential barriers to employment and self-sufficiency, including personal barriers (e.g., physical or mental health problems), family barriers (e.g., children with disabilities, domestic violence), and community barriers. To improve the comparability of survey data collection efforts, states will be encouraged to use a standardized survey instrument across the studies. States will also be asked to augment their survey data with administrative data to examine changes over time in recipient characteristics and welfare utilization. Dependent upon specific state interests, additional administrative data analysis is also possible. States will be encouraged to compare characteristics of recipients and barriers to employment across different subgroups, such as short-term and long-term recipients or employed and non-employed recipients.

Survey Development for State Studies on TANF Caseload

This project will develop a standardized telephone survey instrument to be used in our State Studies on TANF Caseload project (described above) and provide technical assistance for this project. The contractor will develop this survey instrument based on the review of several existing instruments including, but not limited to, the Women's Employment Survey (WES), the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), the Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD), the Mathematica Policy Research Caseload Survey, and TANF "leavers" surveys from Missouri and Alameda County. The developed survey will likely consist of a common core set of questions to be administered in all states receiving awards through the caseload state studies project and a series of short (approximately 5 minutes) special topic modules among which states can choose depending on their specific research interests. The contractor will also be responsible for clearing the newly developed instrument with the Office of Management and Budget and providing technical assistance, including two grantee meetings, to those states receiving awards.

The Characteristics and Service Needs of Families Receiving TANF

This project will fund the analysis of data being collected as part of a pilot study being carried out by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. Non-ASPE funds are being used to design the study, develop the survey instrument, collect survey data, and collate TANF administrative data on a sample of families receiving TANF assistance in one state. The analysis will provide a snapshot of the characteristics of families, barriers which they may face to achieving self-sufficiency, and the services they need and have received. In addition, the analysis plan for this pilot project will help to inform the analysis of our multi-state TANF families characteristics project.

Small Grant Program on Use of HHS-Sponsored Data Sets

Over a dozen new HHS-sponsored administrative and survey databases will be coming online over the next several months. Secondary analyses of new databases will increase our understanding of the outcomes of welfare reform. These databases include data from the ASPE-supported National Evaluation of Welfare to Work Strategies (NEWWS) and state and local welfare leaver studies. This program will provide dissertation grants to students to explore aspects of welfare reform using the HHS-sponsored data sets. The grants will also build capacity by encouraging younger scholars to undertake welfare-related research. Furthermore, the grants will encourage the use of state-specific surveys and administrative data.

Researcher Initiated Grants on Welfare Outcomes

In FYs 1999 and 2000 ASPE funded researcher-initiated grants on various aspects of welfare reform outcomes. Topics were nominated by applicants and selected competitively. We are continuing this grant program and will be supporting research and secondary data analysis efforts covering a variety of information about adults, children, and families, including economic and non-economic well-being and participation in government programs. This grant program will result in policy-relevant research that will further our understanding of how children and families are faring since the introduction of welfare reform. Our intention is to support analyses of information from a variety of sources about economic conditions, health and well-being, socio-demographic characteristics, and the social service needs of low-income individuals, families, and children.