Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2001. Projects to Improve Data Collection, Comparability, or Capacity-Building


The Feasibility of Replicating the Women's Employment Study (2000)

Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that the welfare caseload is becoming increasingly harder to employ, as the more job ready individuals leave or do not enter the caseload. To date, a number of surveys of adult welfare recipients have demonstrated that they have a higher prevalence of multiple barriers to employment than women at large. These include lower levels of education, job skills, work experience, and literacy; higher levels of physical health problems and mental health problems (e.g., depression, post-traumatic stress disorder); and greater experiences with domestic violence. However, these studies are generally small and not representative, and the questions used to assess the prevalence of barriers differ from study to study, making cross comparisons difficult.

This project will build directly on the experience gained from the Women's Employment Study (WES), being undertaken by a research team headed by Sheldon Danziger at the University of Michigan. The purpose of this project is to review what we have learned to date and suggest how we might go about designing surveys that would provide data about multiple barriers to employment. This study will provide a critical assessment of all current studies that are measuring a variety of barriers to employment and the service needs of current and former welfare recipients, e.g., health, mental health, domestic violence, literacy, work skills, etc. A workshop was held in March 2001 which brought experts from the fields of health, mental health, domestic violence, and worker skills together with survey developers and state and local program administrators to identify how best to measure these potential barriers to employment in a telephone survey. A summary report of the workshop is expected by summer 2001. A final report will lay out the scope and content of a "model" caseload survey of welfare recipients, focusing on questions such as "What is the optimal survey design?", "What content areas should be included?", "Which specific questions?", and "If such a survey were fielded in a number of states, how would it extend the knowledge we are getting from the current round of leaver studies and other caseload studies that are in process?"

Estimated Completion Date: September 2001

Support to the New Immigrant Survey (2000)

Declining program participation rates indicate that immigrants and citizen children in immigrant families continue to face benefit eligibility restrictions or barriers to accessing benefits for which they may be eligible. Because of these declines in program participation, there continue to be concerns about economic, health and other outcomes for these populations. The National Institutes of Health (NICHD and NIA) are the principal funders of the New Immigrant Survey, a large, longitudinal survey of recently arriving immigrants beginning in 2000. ASPE provided input to the planning of the study and the development of the instruments. INS and National Science Foundation are other funders of the survey. ASPE funding will help ensure that comprehensive and relevant data are collected and analyzed about program utilization and hardship and well-being over time among newly arriving low-income immigrant families in different states. In particular, ASPE 's support will ensure that the study focuses on how children in these families are faring under welfare reform.

Estimated Completion Date: 2005

State and Local Telephone Survey to Assess the Incidence of Children with Special Health Care Needs (2000)

The devolution of welfare to the states and increased flexibility poses substantial new challenges for data collection and analysis to monitor welfare outcomes. To meet these challenges new and better data are needed at the state and local level. This project supports the administration of a welfare participation question in the state level telephone survey — State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS) — sponsored by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and carried out by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The participation question has been cognitively tested and is the same as that asked on other national surveys (e.g., Current Population Survey, National Survey of Drug Abuse). This data element when combined with other data available from this survey will permit the development of state level estimates of the incidence of special health care needs among children of current and former welfare recipients, as well as the health insurance status (including Medicaid and SCHIP) of current and former recipients. The survey is currently being fielded in the states with an expected completion date of this phase in November 2001. Following the completion of data collection, the data will be processed and released for analysis.

Estimated Completion Date: April 2002

Support for the Research Forum on Children, Families, and the New Federalism Database and Web Site (2000)

This project, funded jointly by ACF and ASPE, supports the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) Research Forum database and web site. The web site is designed to provide the most reliable information to key stakeholders, including researchers, policymakers, administrators, and practitioners concerning welfare reform interventions being tested; populations and geographic areas being assessed; research methods being used; major findings already available; and when future findings will be released. The data base and web site provide valuable information useful to Federal officials and other practitioners regarding research and demonstration initiatives related to welfare reform and the well-being of low-income children and families.

Estimated Completion Date: On-going activity

Support for Iowa State University SPD Project (1999 and 2000)

The Senate Committee Report for the FY 2000 HHS Appropriations bill included language recommending continued support for Iowa State University's project to develop a mechanism to provide State-based or multi-state information, particularly in less densely populated areas. Iowa State University has been working with ASPE to develop an approach for doing state-level surveys that is relevant for local welfare program design, implementation, and evaluation and can be integrated into the Census Bureau's Survey of Program Dynamics (SPD). ASPE is currently supporting work by Iowa State University to explore the feasibility of extending and expanding the SPD to capture state-level reliable samples for use in exploring the outcomes of federal and state policies, as well as local economic conditions of low-income families. Continued ASPE funding is supporting further feasibility work on the extended survey, which includes a 20-minute telephone survey of Iowa households using a questionnaire that includes a module from the SPD as well as a transportation module to address the needs for data in a rural setting. This project is designed to help meet the need for state-specific questions and data within a national framework.

Estimated Completion Date: September 2001

Use of Social Security Summary Earnings Records to Assess Welfare Reform Outcomes (1999 and 2000)

This project continues ASPE's support of a study to determine the prevalence of job-holding associated with a living wage in the post-1996 period for adults who received AFDC benefits in calendar year 1996. The sample of 1996 adult recipients will be drawn from the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the Annual Demographic Supplement (ADS) to the March 1997 Current Population Survey and the 1997 base-line interview sample of the Survey of Program Dynamics. Post-1996 earnings activity will be documented using earnings records obtained from the Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative records matched to the samples for each of these surveys. Initial tracking of job holding and earnings levels via administrative records will be restricted to calendar years 1996, 1997 and possibly 1998. Job holding of female family heads with dependent children who were not receiving means-tested benefits will also be tracked to provide a broader context for interpreting the observed patterns among adult AFDC recipients. Employment and earnings outcomes will be differentiated by both baseline characteristics and earnings patterns established on the basis of the pre-1996 year-by-year lifetime earnings histories stemming from the SSA administrative records files. We expect to receive an initial report on welfare and former welfare recipients in February 2002.

Estimated Completion Date: December 2002

Technical Assistance to Welfare Outcomes Grantees (2000) (incorporates Technical Assistance on Researcher Access to Data Sets, 1999)

In FY 1999, ASPE procured a contractor, ORC Macro, to assist ASPE staff in providing technical assistance to both the FY 1998 and FY 1999 welfare outcomes grantees. The contractor's major task was to work with ASPE staff to coordinate two meetings of the grantees, held in Washington, DC, in Fall 1999 and Fall 2000. In carrying out this task, the contractor prepared background materials, coordinated sessions, and assisted with the logistics, planning, and registration for both of the meetings. In addition, ORC Macro has helped disseminate findings from the ASPE grants and other resources related to the study of welfare outcomes by assisting in the development of the ASPE web site for the leavers and diversion studies.

States and counties that received FY 1998 and FY 1999 Welfare Outcomes grants are now or will soon be preparing and submitting research data sets that will combine the state-specific administrative and survey data they have collected on former, current, and potential TANF recipients and other special populations affected by state TANF policies, including diversion practices. Grantees are expected to submit the data sets to ASPE , and also to make them available for research purposes. To improve the quality and comparability of these data sets, ASPE modified and extended the task order contract with ORC Macro in FY 2000 to provide technical assistance and coordination in the preparation of the data sets, to ensure that they are appropriately documented and accessible to outside researchers. ORC Macro has helped coordinate the ASPE public use data file work group, and released a technical assistance guide for the grantees in Fall 2000 on procuring and documenting researcher-access data files.

Estimated Completion Date: September 2001

Research Technical Assistance on State Child Indicators Initiatives (1998, 1999 and 2000)

Continuation funding was provided to researchers at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago to wrap up technical assistance to the states that received grants to promote child indicator work in the context of better understanding welfare reform outcomes. The technical assistance effort has emphasized collaborative work among the states and peer-to-peer assistance efforts. Technical assistance has been provided, for example, on conceptual and methodological issues in identifying and measuring appropriate sets of child health and well-being indicators within and across states; ways of creating or using survey and administrative data and of combining several data approaches; and ways to involve state policy makers who can help institutionalize data systems for measuring and tracking child indicators and establish procedures for using indicator information to inform policy deliberations. A final project meeting is planned for Summer 2001, and products from the project will be finalized and disseminated. See <> for summaries of meetings at which assistance has already been provided to grantees.

Estimated Completion Date: September 2001

Access to Welfare Outcomes Data Sets (2000)

State and county grantees conducting Welfare Outcomes studies have been preparing, documenting, and submitting research data sets that combine the state-specific administrative and survey data they have collected on former, current, and potential TANF recipients. As of April 2001, documented data sets on families who left TANF were available for further analysis from six grantees. An additional six to ten data sets are expected to be submitted over the next six months. Most of the grantees are expected to request storage of their files in a controlled environment where confidentiality can be protected. Through an interagency transfer, ASPE funds are supporting storage of these files at the Research Data Center (RDC) of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The funds are being used to: 1) support staff time in working with the Welfare Outcomes Grants data base; and 2) lower the cost to researchers of accessing the files by providing subsidies of not more than 75 percent of the RDC fee usually charged to researchers. Information on procedures for gaining access to welfare outcomes data sets is posted on the "Data Files" section of the ASPE-sponsored "Leavers and Diversion" web page at <>.

Estimated Completion Date: Indefinite