Status Report on Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2002. Findings from Completed Welfare Outcomes-Funded Studies

11/14/2002

Synthesis of Welfare Outcomes Grants (2000) (1)

Final reports from most of the FY 1998 State Welfare Outcomes grantees have been released and research data sets are becoming available. Under contract with ASPE, the Urban Institute prepared a synthesis report that includes administrative data findings from all 15 of the ASPE-funded leavers studies. The report also includes more detailed findings based on information gathered through follow-up surveys of samples of former recipients from 12 of the 15 grantees. In addition, the researchers at the Urban Institute conducted secondary data analyses of welfare outcomes measures, drawing on the state-specific data sets produced by each of the grantees secured under the Technical Assistance on Researcher Access to Data Sets project. The final synthesis report, completed in December 2001, builds on these secondary data analyses of welfare outcomes measures and information in the grantees' written reports. The report, Final Synthesis Report of Findings from ASPE "Leavers" Grants, is available on ASPE's website at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/leavers99/synthesis02/>, under "Leavers and Diversion Studies." It includes information on welfare leavers' employment and earnings, public assistance program participation, income and poverty status, material hardships, and child well-being.

Some highlights of the report include:

Employment and Earnings

Encouraging families to move off welfare and into jobs is a goal of welfare reform. All fifteen studies collected some information about employment rates and earnings, wages, or employer-related benefits of families that left welfare. The major findings in this area across these studies are:

  • About three-quarters of all leavers work at some point in the year after exiting TANF, on average, and about three out of five work at any given point in time. A little more than a third worked in all four quarters after exiting TANF.
  • Mean earnings of welfare leavers are about $2,600 per quarter, according to administrative data. Most studies show a significant increase in quarterly earnings of at least $200 between the first and fourth quarter after exit.
  • Working leavers' wages, averaging between $7 and $8 an hour, are comfortably above the federal minimum wage but are nevertheless low. Employed leavers work close to full-time, on average, at least 35 hours per week.
  • About half of all working leavers are offered employer-sponsored health insurance through their jobs, but only about one-third actually have coverage. Some leavers receive other employer-sponsored benefits. In general, no more than half have paid sick leave or pension coverage. Paid vacations days are a bit more common.
  • No single barrier to work consistently affects a majority of leavers; however, a substantial minority of leavers must overcome child care and health-related problems in order to work.
  • Continuous leavers, those who did not return to TANF in the year after exit, are just as likely to have ever worked after exit as those who returned to TANF. However, continuous leavers are somewhat more likely to have worked all four quarters after exit than those who returned. Continuous leavers also have higher earnings than leavers in general.

Program Participation

Non-TANF government assistance can help families in their transition from welfare to work. However, some families return to TANF. The major findings across studies on returns to TANF and participation in other public assistance programs include:

  • It is not uncommon for leavers to return to TANF--a quarter to a third of families who left welfare returned to TANF at some point in the first year after exit.
  • About half of leaver families receive food stamps in the first quarter after exit and about two-thirds receive these benefits at some point in the year after exit.
  • About three out of five leaver families have an adult enrolled in Medicaid in the first quarter after exit. Medicaid coverage of children is generally higher, ranging from 60 to 90 percent after exit.
  • The percentage of leavers who receive food stamps and Medicaid at any point over the year after exit is significantly higher than the percentage receiving them in any of the individual quarters, suggesting a great deal of cycling on and off these programs.
  • Participation in both food stamps and Medicaid is generally lower for continuous leaver families than those who return to TANF at some point in the year after exit.
  • Food stamp and Medicaid program participation is generally higher for those who are not currently employed compared to those currently employed.
  • Several studies also report on additional sources of government assistance, such as housing assistance, disability benefits, reduced-price lunches, WIC, fuel/energy assistance, unemployment compensation, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. The range of participation in these programs varies across studies.

Household Income

Household or family income is an important indicator of the well-being of welfare leavers. Although such information is difficult to gather, a subset of studies examine income levels, sources of income, and poverty. Results on income levels, sources of income, and poverty for the subset of studies that examine income are summarized below.

  • Average monthly family income for leavers from all sources, including earnings, generally hovers near the poverty line.
  • Across all leaver families, own earnings are the most important single source of income, and own earnings plus the earnings of other family members together comprise over three-quarters of leaver families' incomes on average.
  • In the four studies that explicitly examine poverty rates of leaver families, on average, over half of leavers are poor. Two studies found that the majority of leavers have incomes below 185 percent of the federal poverty line.
  • In the few studies that compare monthly income for subgroups, continuous leavers have considerably higher incomes than leavers in general. Employed leavers also have much greater monthly incomes than jobless leavers.

Material Hardship

A number of leavers studies go beyond earnings, employment, income, and program participation and examine the extent to which leavers experience material hardships such as hunger and housing problems and whether these hardships are different for families on and off welfare. Key findings include:

  • A quarter or more leaver families experience food hardships at some point after exiting TANF - problems having enough money for food or having food last for the month - and similar percentages are experiencing trouble paying rent or utilities.
  • Although some studies show that leavers experience higher levels of food and housing-related hardship after exit relative to when on TANF, other studies show that hardships decrease or remain the same after exit.
  • With regard to medical hardship (being unable to access medical care), four studies found leavers were more likely to report being unable to afford health care for their families after exit as compared with before exit.
  • Several studies report results on material hardship across subgroups of leavers, including workers and non-workers and those who left TANF due to sanctions or time limits.
  • Most studies that compare material hardship across employment status find that leavers who are working have lower levels of food, housing, and health care-related problems.
  • The available evidence on whether sanctioned and time-limited families experience greater material hardships than families who left welfare for other reasons is mixed.

Child Well-Being

Although virtually all families leaving welfare have children, it is difficult to assess child well-being from either administrative data or a single interview. Thus, leaver studies contain limited information about children's outcomes and well-being. For the studies reporting this information, findings on children's health insurance coverage, health status, behavior, interaction with child welfare services, and child care arrangements are summarized below.

  • Reports of children in poor or fair health are generally low, ranging from 5 to 10 percent. However, one-tenth to one-quarter of leaver families have children without health insurance.
  • Although the measures of child behavior are varied, most studies that compare behaviors pre- and post-exit find that the majority of leavers report child behavior is better after exit.
  • Rates of interaction with child welfare services range from 1 to 13 percent, including reports of abuse/neglect and foster care services. There is little evidence on whether the percentage of families involved in child welfare services changed after exiting TANF.
  • For child care, a substantial percentage of leaver families rely on parental care. For those using non-parental care, siblings and other relatives of the child are by far the most common sources of care for children.

Mental Health and Employment Among Welfare Recipients (2000)

As TANF policies move 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 a task order, Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. profiled the efforts of four states (Florida, Oregon, Tennessee, and Utah) to address the mental health needs of welfare recipients. This study was designed to: (1) identify and provide detailed information about the design and structure of mental health services developed by state and local welfare offices to address the mental health needs of welfare recipients, (2) highlight service delivery options in designing and implementing these services, and (3) discuss the key implementation challenges and lessons learned in providing mental health services to welfare recipients. The researchers visited one rural and one urban site in each state. The sites provided services in a variety of ways, and the research did not collect any evidence that suggests that one model for providing mental health services is better than any other. Rather, the project was designed to draw attention to the key design and implementation choices made by policymakers and managers in providing mental health services for welfare recipients. The final report, Providing Mental Health Services to TANF Recipients: Program Design Choices and Implementation Challenges in Four States, was released in August 2001, and is available at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/TANF-MH01/>.

National Academy of Sciences Panel Study on Welfare Outcomes (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001)

ASPE made its final installment of support for the National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) Panel on Data and Methods for Measuring the Effects of Changes in Social Welfare Programs. The purpose of convening this NAS Panel was to evaluate the design of current, proposed and future studies of the effects of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, and to provide the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with unbiased scientific recommendations for studying the outcomes of recent changes in the welfare system. The panel's conclusions and recommendations on research questions and populations of interest, evaluation methods and issues, and data needs and issues were presented in its report, Evaluating Welfare Reform in an Era of Transition, which was disseminated in 2001. The Panel published a collection of methodological papers by welfare outcomes research experts, Studies of Welfare Populations, Data Collection and Research Issues, in January 2002. The papers included in the volume discuss the current state of knowledge for surveying low-income populations; preparation and use of and access to welfare program-relevant administrative data systems; and measuring important outcomes for welfare studies.

Access to Welfare Outcomes Data Sets (2000)

Through an interagency transfer, ASPE funds were used to support storage of certain data sets at the Research Data Center (RDC) of the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). These data sets include state-specific administrative and survey data from state and county grantees conducting Welfare Outcomes studies on former, current, and potential TANF recipients. As of March 2002, documented data sets on families who left TANF were available for further analysis from fifteen grantees and data sets from families applying for TANF from three grantees. A few additional data sets, primarily from studies of families applying for TANF, will be placed at the Research Data Center in the next few months. 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 <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/leavers99/datafiles/>.

Grants to States and Localities to Enhance Studies of Welfare-Related Outcomes

The purpose of these grants is to enhance state-specific surveys of populations affected by welfare reform, by expanding or improving data collection activities. Grants to states are being used, for example, to add additional survey waves to measure longer-term outcomes, collect data to support greater sub-group analyses, and gather more detailed information on non-respondents. To be eligible, states had to have an existing survey that had been administered at least once, so the grants can facilitate real improvements, without paying for basic startup costs. Survey efforts needed to fill an important knowledge gap that could not be filled with states' existing data. The data cover a variety of welfare reform outcomes, such as measures of family hardship and well-being, barriers to employment, poverty status, and utilization of support programs. The surveys focus on various subsets of the low-income population including long-term welfare recipients, child-only cases, former recipients, potential recipients, welfare leavers with little or no reported income, and other special populations affected by state TANF policies.

Iowa (2000)

Iowa builds on an existing study of families leaving the Family Independence Program (FIP). The study was conducted by Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), and consisted of three components: one focusing on families who have left TANF and report very low incomes; a second focusing on longer-term outcomes for families that have left TANF; and a third focusing on non-respondents from their earlier survey. MPR has secured significant funding from foundations in addition to the ASPE grant for this project. All components have been completed.

In their study of families with very low incomes, MPR conducted in-depth interviews of 16 families reporting no more than $500 in total income per month, including those with no TANF and no employment, and those with low levels of TANF and/or employment. These interviews focused on possible income sources that were missed or incorrectly measured, coping strategies and family well-being. They found that while many families had two or more sources of income, their incomes varied significantly from month to month, often leaving gaps in their ability to meet regular monthly expenses such as rent. Coping strategies included negotiating partial payment on bill, pawning goods, doubling up on rent and finding additional sources of income such as recycling cans or babysitting. MPR found that the great variability in monthly income made it likely that traditional one-time phone interviews of leavers are limited in their ability to capture economic well-being of families. A link to the report, Living on Little: Case Studies of Iowa Families with Very Low Incomes is available on Mathematica's web site at <http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/PDFs/liveonlittle.pdf>.

MPR's second analysis of Iowa added a second wave to their existing survey of welfare leavers to observe outcomes two years after families left TANF. The analysis also incorporates administrative data to help track income and program participation. The study found that most family heads were working two years after leaving TANF, had above minimum wage jobs and were as well or better off than they were a year ago. However, their work was unstable and over half remained poor or near poor. While only about one fifth returned to TANF, closer to one half participated in Medicaid and over one third in food stamps. A link to the report, Iowa Families That Left TANF: How Are They Faring Two Years Later?, is available on Mathematica's web site at <http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/PDFs/iowatwoyears.pdf>.

MPR's final analysis under this grant involved interviews with approximately 47 non-respondent cases from their earlier survey of one-year outcomes, targeting a response rate of roughly 60 percent. Information from these interviews was used to assess the representativeness of survey data on welfare outcomes and the implications for interpreting findings, by examining whether non-respondents to that survey where significantly different from respondents, and whether their non-response significantly biased the survey's findings. Using intensive location efforts, the project found and interviewed the majority of TANF leavers who failed to respond to the original survey. The study reports that the non-respondents were somewhat worse off. For example, they were less likely to have health insurance, and more likely to have housing-related problems such as going without utilities or having to double up. But their outcomes were not sufficiently different to bias the original survey's results, such that even if they had been included in the original survey, the findings would not be significantly different.

Supporting Families After Welfare Reform: Access to Medicaid, S-CHIP and Food Stamps (1999)

ASPE, along with the ACF, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and USDA, contributed funding to a major $5.9 million initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide technical assistance and grants to states and large counties to improve their enrollment and redetermination processes for Medicaid, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and food stamps. Under the Supporting Families program, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation provided funding for assistance to states or counties to work on Medicaid and SCHIP, while federal funding provided assistance to work on food stamps, Medicaid, and SCHIP. The expert technical assistance included analysis of performance data, identification of the root causes of problems in their enrollment processes, and/or development of specific implementation plans to solve the problems and increase the participation rates in Medicaid, SCHIP, and food stamps. Information on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's overall initiative to solve problems in eligibility processes that make it difficult for low-income families to access and retain Medicaid, SCHIP or food stamps - particularly families moving from welfare to work - can be found under "Supporting Families after Welfare Reform" at <http://www.rwjf.org/>.

Federal funding supported a literature review and synthesis on the post-welfare reform drop in participation in the Medicaid and Food Stamp programs, including reasons underlying the changes in participation, and potential strategies for increasing participation among eligible families. The report, Access to and Participation in Medicaid and the Food Stamp Program - A Review of the Recent Literature, was released in March 2000, and can be found at <http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/opre/med-fs.htm>. It includes findings from government- and privately-sponsored research projects, studies of participation in the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and Medicaid at the national and state level, studies of low-income families who have left welfare, reviews of research, and ongoing analysis and data collection efforts. Federal funding also supported visits to promising practices sites to identify practices that appear to enhance or facilitate participation in the Medicaid/SCHIP and Food Stamp programs by former TANF and low-income families. The final report, Promoting Medicaid and Food Stamp Participation: Establishing Eligibility Procedures that Support Participation and Meet Families' Needs, synthesizes findings across all promising practices and program improvement sites. The case study reports can be found at <http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/Publications/publications.asp>.

 

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

The prevalence of alternative work arrangements such as temporary and on-call jobs in the U.S. work force has grown considerably in recent years. The growth is likely to have important implications for low-income workers, particularly since the advent of welfare reform and its emphasis on getting welfare recipients into jobs quickly. Alternative work arrangements, especially for those with limited work histories, might be expected to be a natural pathway to work for welfare recipients. However, little is known about the use of nonstandard work as a gateway into the work force for the low-income and the low-skilled. This project examined the role of nonstandard work arrangements in today's labor market, paying particular attention to the effect of such arrangements on low-income workers and those at risk of being on public assistance.

Findings from the October 2001 final report by the Urban Institute, which can be found at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/temp-workers01/>, include:

  • Workers who are at risk of welfare dependency are more than twice as likely to be in alternative work arrangements as other workers.
  • The number of industries utilizing temporary workers has increased, particularly among industries where the median education level of temporary workers is very high - suggesting that low-skilled workers will be increasingly less able to compete for these jobs.
  • At-risk workers fare worse in nonstandard jobs than do others workers in such arrangements across a variety of dimensions: wages, incidence of part-time hours, job duration, and employer-provided benefits.
  • Individuals who had a spell in temporary work had worse earnings and employment outcomes a year later than did similar individuals with a spell in standard employment. But if the employment outcomes of temporary workers are compared to those who had a spell of unemployment, rather than to workers in standard jobs, temporary workers fared much better.

Linking State TANF Policies to Outcomes:  A Preliminary Assessment (2000 and 2001)

In FY 2000, ASPE issued a task order to the Urban Institute to analyze and synthesize available information on state welfare and related support policies and assess which characteristics of state programs or background characteristics are most significant in predicting outcomes. As part of this project, Urban convened a technical work group (TWG) of researchers to make recommendations on which existing typologies were most promising and on directions for analysis. The TWG recommended that Urban develop new typologies, rather than modifying existing typologies.

Therefore, under the revised task order, Urban Institute developed six typologies, each containing the variables that are expected to affect a specific outcome (such as recipient job entry or the poverty rate). The variables in these typologies, along with state level data on outcomes and contextual variables, have been entered into a database which will be 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. This database will be available through the ASPE and Urban Institute websites in Summer 2002, along with a complete data dictionary, documentation of sources, and explanation of the reasoning behind the typologies. Urban has also conducted cluster and factor analysis on the recipient job entry typology as an example of what can be learned through these approaches.

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. Under this project the Urban Institute profiled an emerging trend on the part of states and localities to develop "alternative" kinship care programs designed to meet the needs of kinship care families outside of traditional foster care or TANF programs. The final report, On Their Own Terms: Supporting Kinship Care Outside of TANF and Foster Care, describes the characteristics and service needs of kinship caregivers, the range and scope of alternative kinship care program models and services, lessons learned about designing and implementing alternative programs, and policy implications for child welfare, TANF/welfare, and other agencies. In-depth information on programs in seven sites (2) is also included. The report was released in September 2001 and is available at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/kincare01/>.

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

Several government agencies (ACF, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and ASPE in HHS; the Immigration and Naturalization Service in DOJ; and USDA's Food and Nutrition Service and Economic Research Service) and private foundations (the Ford, William and Flora Hewlett, and Andrew W. Mellon Foundations) awarded a grant to the Urban Institute in 1997 to study immigrant families in the context of welfare reform. ASPE contributed funds in 1998 and 1999. The project involved a large-scale study of immigrants and their communities in Los Angeles and New York City to deepen our understanding of the impact of changes in federal laws on immigrant families and children. The final report, How Are Immigrants Faring After Welfare Reform? Preliminary Evidence from Los Angeles and New York City, was released in March 2002.

This report analyzes survey data collected in late 1999 and early 2000 from 3,447 immigrant families in New York City and Los Angeles County. Major findings are summarized below; most are consistent with other recent research findings related to poverty rates and rates of health insurance among immigrants.

  • More than half the members of immigrant families in Los Angeles and New York City are citizens, with about one-third being native, U.S.-born children.
  • Immigrant families have relatively high rates of poverty, with recent immigrants being poorer than longer established immigrants.
  • One-half of immigrant families in Los Angeles, and two-thirds in New York City, are limited English proficient (LEP), and LEP adults are nearly 3 times as likely to be poor as immigrants who speak English well.
  • Immigrants tend to have lower incomes despite relatively high labor force attachment; labor force participation is about 80 percent for immigrant adults in Los Angeles and New York City, and 73 percent for low income immigrants.
  • Similar to findings from other studies, immigrants in the two cities were less likely to have health insurance than citizens, primarily due to a lack of job-based coverage. Although immigrant adults are as likely as native citizens to be enrolled in Medicaid, they are 3 times more likely to be uninsured due to the lack of job-based insurance coverage.
  • Citizen children in immigrant families are about twice as likely to have health insurance as immigrant children in those families. In general, children are more likely to be insured under the New York State SCHIP program than the California SCHIP program; the former has been in existence longer than the latter.
  • Roughly one-third of immigrant families in Los Angeles and New York City are food insecure, which is about 3 times the level of food insecurity of native citizen families; LEP families are more likely to be food insecure than English proficient families (40 versus 21 percent in Los Angeles, and 36 versus 24 percent in New York City); about half of families where adults speak no English at all are food insecure.
  • While participation of immigrant families in the Food Stamp Program declined significantly between 1996 - 2000 (about 50 percent), the reported reasons for reduced or terminated benefits were generally unrelated to immigrant status. The most prevalent reason given was an improvement in economic circumstances. Other reasons included changes to family composition, and simply choosing to stop receiving benefits.
  • Even though large proportions of food insecure immigrant families do not receive food stamps (about four-fifths in both cities), the families that do receive benefits are those most in need; single parent families with children are more than twice as likely, and those with LEP adults three times as likely, to receive food stamps than other families, when controlling for poverty and immigration status.

This report and other project reports can be found at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/hspother.htm#immig>.

In a related effort, ASPE funds were 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. (TRIM has subsequently been updated to include immigrant variables for later years, using other funding sources.)

Researcher Initiated Grants on Welfare Outcomes

ASPE has supported researcher-initiated proposals to study important questions related to the outcomes of welfare reform in FYs 1999, 2000 and 2001. Eight welfare outcomes research grants totaling $800,000 were awarded in FY 1999 to analyze a variety of information about low-income individuals (both adults and children) and their families, including their economic and non-economic well-being and their participation in government programs. Issues examined under those grants include caseload dynamics, the impact of spatial distribution of economic opportunities, health insurance and health care utilization, the use of food stamps, living arrangements, maternal and child health, domestic violence, and quality-of-life issues.

The FY 2000 grant program, conducted in cooperation with the Administration for Children and Families, focused on use of state and federal administrative data, and on current and former TANF recipients and other special populations affected by state TANF policies. Priority research interests included the composition of the caseload, patterns of government program use, sub-populations, non-working welfare leavers, sanctions, employment stability, marriage and family structure, TANF flexibility, barrier identification and service utilization, and entry effects and welfare dynamics. ASPE awarded approximately $1.3 million to 10 applicants. In general, ASPE funding supported research and secondary data analysis efforts that would be completed within 12 months covering a variety of information about adults, children, and families, including economic and non-economic well-being and participation in government programs. ACF awarded an additional $1.2 million in FY 2000 to support continuation of two of the projects beyond this first year and seven other longer-term projects involving primary data collection.

Some grants have been completed or have interim products. When available, final reports from the grantees will be posted on the ASPE website at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/>.

RAND: Entry, Exit and the Changing Composition of the Caseload (2000)

This project explored the role of the economy in explaining the welfare caseload declines. It examined the relative importance of changes in the rates of entry, exit, and re-entry in explaining the observed caseload declines using individual level data for California. The results suggested that adjustment is far from instantaneous. Changes in the entry rate were much more important than changes in the exit rate and re-entry rate for explaining changes in the welfare caseload itself.

Baruch College, City University of New York: Effects of Welfare Reform on Investments in Human Capital and Family Formation (2000)

This study investigated whether the behavior of teens and young adults ages 16 to 21 has changed as the result of welfare reform. Researchers used data from the 1979 and 1997 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth (NLSY) to compare cohorts (both between and within) that entered these ages prior to and following welfare reform, describing differences in outcomes and behaviors such as high school completion, teenage and non-marital child bearing, employment and welfare receipt. The study found that rates of first-time entry onto welfare have declined considerably, primarily among older teens. The decline in the welfare caseload associated with reform is not solely a matter of an increase in the rate of leaving welfare or a decline in recidivism, but also has occurred because of a decline in the rate of initial entry. Teenage mothers were less likely to enter welfare in the late 1990s than in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The study also found some weak evidence that welfare reform may have reduced fertility among teens. The decline in welfare entry among teenage mothers has been accompanied by changes in their living arrangements. Compared to the pre-welfare reform cohort, teenagers who have had a non-marital birth are less likely to receive welfare, and those who are not on welfare are more likely to live with a parent.

University of Oregon: TANF and Household Savings (2000)

This project studied the impact of new savings incentives offered to participants in the TANF program. Researchers addressed the following questions: 1) Has saving increased among those low-income households who reside in states that have increased the liquid-asset and vehicle equity limits for program eligibility? 2) Has saving increased among those low-income households who reside in states that have introduced Individual Development Accounts? 3) What is the impact of time-limited benefits on household savings? 4) Are there differences by race, marital status, and poverty status in the response to the new saving incentives?

The study used data from the 1989, 1994, and 1999 wealth supplements of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. A final report, released in June 2001, found that the near-term saving of the poor has responded modestly to several of the recent changes in welfare policy, but that in general the saving of the near-poor has not responded to welfare reform. Specifically, increasing asset limits has had a small positive effect on saving by the poor, while the imposition of time limits appears not to have motivated low-income households to save more.

University of Michigan: Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Domestic Violence Service Utilization by Welfare Recipients (2000)

This project analyzed the impact that spatial proximity to social service providers and individual-level characteristics have on service utilization rates among welfare recipients in the three-county Detroit metropolitan area. This study showed that major depression and several limitations in physical functioning are related to lower probabilities of employment and few months of employment. The study also showed that severe abuse is prevalent for the sample and recent and persistent experiences are associated with welfare reliance without work, lower earnings, and great likelihood of material hardship and financial strain. Researchers used data from a survey of welfare recipients in the Detroit area.

Case Western Reserve University: The Effect of Job Accessibility and Neighborhood Characteristics on the Employment Stability of Welfare Leavers in an Urban Labor Market (2000)

This study examined the spatial patterns of employment and the effects of neighborhood conditions and job accessibility on the labor market experiences and employment stability of adult female case heads leaving welfare. The analysis focused on employment stability, earnings, and wages at approximately 6 and 13 months after individuals left TANF in the Cleveland metropolitan area. Labor market success was measured in a number of ways, including the level of earnings and wages, the growth of earnings and wages, and the probability of remaining employed. Results suggested that welfare leavers had less job access than the Cleveland area population in general. Relative to the available jobs in the labor market, their jobs were over-represented in inner city and minority employment locations. There were few effects on employment outcomes of job access.

University of Illinois: Young Mothers' Transitions On and Off TANF: How do Child Care Assistance, Job Training, and Social Supports Influence These Decisions? (2000)

This project identified the likelihood that young mothers entered, stayed on, or left TANF given the use and/or availability of child care, job training, and other social programs in their community. Data on three subgroups of young mothers (ages 18-24) who lived in the Chicago metropolitan area between January 1, 1997, and June 30, 2000, were analyzed. The major findings were that receiving Medicaid while not on TANF is related to a lower risk of starting to receive TANF. Mothers also are less likely to return to TANF after exiting if they get help paying for child care.

Washington University: The Impact of Welfare Reform in North Carolina: Exits, Employment, Earnings and Recidivism (2000) (formerly Employment, Earnings and Recidivism: How do Entrants to TANF Differ from Entrants to AFDC?)

The project used administrative data from North Carolina, focusing on five consecutive entry cohorts (those who began receiving AFDC/TANF payments in February, March or April of 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, or 1999). Data on client demographics and welfare receipt were linked to employment data and to data on local labor markets. All analyses were broken out by race/ethnicity. The analyses found that:

  • Later cohorts of entrants are younger, have less work experience immediately prior to entry, have lower levels of education, and are substantially more likely to have young children. Correspondingly, later cohorts were more likely to be experiencing their first spell of welfare receipt. These trends hold true across racial/ethnic groups.
  • Family structure strongly affects exits from and return to welfare. Married couples exit welfare faster, and are less likely to return to welfare, even though married women have lower post-exit earnings than single ones. Families with a child less than one year old, are somewhat less likely to exit welfare than those without one, but very much more likely to return after having exited. Families with more children are not less likely to leave welfare, but are substantially more likely to return.
  • There was a substantial increase over time in employment rates while receiving welfare. However, the percentage of exits that were work-related declined somewhat over the cohorts. Time off of welfare and increased work experience are both associated with earnings gains over time. However, most recipients' earnings were not enough to lift them and their families out of poverty, even four years after exit. Employment rates decline over time off welfare, even among those with previous work experience.
  • Black women exited welfare more slowly than white or Hispanic women, and were more likely to return to the rolls. This is true even though they were more likely to work while receiving welfare, to have work-related exits from welfare, and to remain employed. Earnings and employment rates, as well as absolute gains in earnings over time are greater for black women than for white women. This is in part driven by higher rate of part-time work among white women. This is consistent with a hypothesis that the white women in this sample are more able to depend on income from other family members.
  • Nearly 80 percent of all jobs obtained by welfare recipients were within the service and retail industries. Many of these jobs were part-time.

Low-Income Families: Coping as Parents and Workers (2000) (formerly How Low-Wage Working Families Cope as Parents and Workers)

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 also are providing care for family members who are elderly or have special needs, or must work nonstandard and irregular hours. This project, jointly sponsored by ASPE and ACF, is assessing coping mechanisms used by low-income families by examining 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, and time and money management. The project examines all low-income families as well as teen parents and those leaving TANF assistance and entering the labor force for the first time, and considers the effects of coping on children. A conference was held in November 2001, and research papers were presented at the conference.

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

Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that the welfare caseload is becoming increasingly harder to employ, and 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. 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.

The purpose of this project was to build on experiences from the Women's Employment Study at the University of Michigan 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, including health, mental health, domestic violence, literacy, work skills, etc.

An ASPE-sponsored workshop was held in March 2001 to generate recommendations on how best to design a survey study of welfare recipients to understand the factors that encourage or, in contrast, hinder welfare recipients' transitions to employment and self-reliance. Participants included academic and policy researchers with a wide range of methodological and substantive interests, and research staff from HHS (including the National Institute of Mental Health) and the Michigan Family Independence Agency. The project's final report, released in February 2002, summarized the conference themes and included recommendations for a survey of welfare recipients. Some of the issues addressed include: designing the sample; reducing non-response, particularly non-response due to inability to locate sample members; costs and benefits of collecting administrative data along with survey data; ideas for measures of employability; conceptual and methodological issues related to studying domestic violence; measures of physical and mental health appropriate for welfare studies; and design issues for collecting data on substance abuse. The report, Designing Surveys of Welfare Populations: Report from the Workshop on Designing Surveys of Welfare Recipients, March 15-16, 2001, Ann Arbor, Michigan, will be posted at <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/> when available.

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

This project analyzed data from various sources, including the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), and administrative data, to track trends in income, poverty and other economic measures, such as food security and access to health insurance. The resulting tabulations are being used to support internal analyses of income and poverty, children and their families, working-age adults, the elderly, and the impacts of public programs including outcomes of welfare reform.

Iowa State University Project: Considerations for Designing State-Surveys to Support Integration with National Survey Data (1999 and 2000) (formerly Support for Iowa State University SPD Project)

The goal of this research project was to investigate alternative systems for state-level surveys to support welfare reform assessments that can be linked to related national, regional and state data. The investigation focused on sampling design, questionnaire design, and local assessment of transportation needs in a rural state.

This project found that a dual-frame sample design - one that uses random digit dialing for a telephone survey and a list-based frame - can be implemented to target both welfare recipients and the general population to provide efficient estimates of the population of interest. In addition, it was found that local-specific topic modules could successfully be incorporated into a current national survey instrument. The researchers developed a transportation module and incorporated it into the instrument used for the national Survey of Program Dynamics to address information needs of rural communities in the state. A pilot study using the dual-frame sampling methodology and the modified instrument was successfully carried out.

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

States and counties that received FY 1998 and FY 1999 Welfare Outcomes grants have submitted research data sets that combine the state-specific administrative data they have collected on former, current, and potential TANF recipients and other special populations affected by state TANF policies, including diversion practices. Grantees were 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, and to ensure that the data are appropriately documented and accessible to outside researchers, ASPE modified and extended an earlier task order contract with ORC Macro in FY 2000 to provide technical assistance and coordination in the preparation of the data sets. ORC Macro 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. In addition, ORC Macro reviewed, analyzed, and edited (where necessary) those data files that were submitted by the grantees prior to the end of this contract in September 2001.

Research Technical Assistance on State Child Indicators Initiatives (1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001)

Funding was provided to researchers at the Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago for technical assistance to states that received grants to promote child indicator work to monitor changes in welfare and other key policies. The technical assistance effort emphasized collaborative work among the states and peer-to-peer assistance efforts. Technical assistance was 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. The reports and products developed by the states, as well as summaries of meetings at which technical assistance was provided to grantees, will be available primarily through the ASPE website (see <http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/cyp/child-ind98/>) in Summer 2002.