Status of Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2000. Grants to States and Localities to Study Welfare Reform Outcomes, with an Emphasis on Diversion (1999)


Current status: One of the Congress's major objectives in providing welfare outcomes money to ASPE over the last several years is to measure outcomes for a broad population of low-income families, welfare recipients, former recipients, potential recipients, and other special populations affected by state TANF policies, including diversion practices. To this end, ASPE issued a request for applications from states and large counties in April 1999 with an emphasis on the study of applicants and potential applicants to the TANF program. ASPE awarded seven grants under this announcement, six of which specifically support state efforts to gather a variety of information about individuals and their families who are formally or informally diverted from TANF. In addition, several of the leavers studies funded in FY 1998 have significant applicant components to their projects.

ASPE is particularly interested in learning about the degree to which TANF applicants receive, or are aware of their potential eligibility for, Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs and services that are important in helping low-income families make a successful transition to work. Below are summaries of the grants provided to states and large counties in fiscal years 1998 and 1999 with a particular emphasis on TANF diversion. "Diversion" in this context is not limited to participation in formal diversion programs, but also includes "informal" divertees. These are usually defined as individuals who began the application process but were either deemed ineligible for non-monetary reasons, withdrew voluntarily after completing the process, or failed to complete the process for some other reason. These project updates are current as of September 2000.

FY 1999


Arizona is building on the state's FY 1998 study of leavers by looking at informal divertees and entrants to TANF. The study uses a wide range of administrative data (including data on child care subsidies) to track second quarter 1999 divertees and recipients for 12 months, and includes surveys of 400 individuals in both populations at three and nine months after application. Some of the subgroups on which the state will be focusing include urban vs. rural applicants and applicants who are initially denied but eventually reapply for TANF.

Arizona has collected administrative data from a number of different sources, including a data warehouse established as part of the FY 1998 ASPE leavers grant. State researchers have also completed the first wave of surveys, resulting in a response rate of 71 percent. It appears that for the second wave of surveys, which is scheduled to be completed in late 2000, researchers will be able to find 85-90 percent of individuals interviewed during the first wave. The state expects to submit some basic analysis of the first wave of the TANF applicant survey to ASPE by Winter 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2001

Contra Costa County and Alameda County (CA)

Contra Costa and Alameda Counties are located in the East San Francisco Bay area of California and contain the cities of Oakland and Richmond. This project is studying TANF leavers from both counties, as well as formal and informal divertees in Contra Costa County. Researchers at the SPHERE Institute have been able to take advantage of these counties' Case Data System (CDS), which includes every TANF application that is initiated in the two counties. The CDS allows SPHERE to uncover the reasons individuals were diverted or left TANF, as well as make comparisons across the two counties. They used the CDS both to link all applicants with other administrative databases and to draw their survey sample of 850 leavers and 150 divertees from the third quarter of 1999.

The first wave of surveys was administered at six months after exit/diversion, with a response rate for informally diverted families in Contra Costa County of 64 percent. Researchers currently are continuing to analyze the administrative data, while also conducting the second round of survey data collection (at 12 months after exit). A preliminary draft of findings from both rounds of survey data and merged administrative data should be available in early 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2001


Illinois is focusing this study on applicants; the state is particularly interested in learning about families who fail to complete the application process. The population to be studied includes one month of approved, denied, and withdrawn applications. Although the state has no formal diversion policy, the study will assess Illinois' new intake process, which emphasizes employment, assessment, and prompt referral to needed services. Administrative data analysis is planned for the entire population of approximately 6,000 families, and a survey will be administered to the sample of 1,200 divertees approximately two to four months after application. The study also includes surveys of program administrators at six local welfare offices to help evaluate the new intake process.

After receiving the ASPE grant, Illinois issued a request for proposals for contractor assistance in conducting the study. MAXIMUS was recently selected as the contractor, and the applicant study is now in the initial stages.

Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2001

New York

New York, which also received a FY 1998 leavers grant from ASPE, has included divertees, all other denials, and entrants in their sample for this study. Their analysis will focus on comparing TANF applicants who were diverted with those who received cash assistance. Twenty-one local districts are participating in the study, including New York City and other sites ranging from large urban to rural areas. In most districts, the project uses administrative data to track a March 2000 sample of divertees, denials, and entrants for 12 months after the application.

The sample was drawn through intercept interviews with TANF applicants in each of the local districts. This methodology allowed New York to include individuals who entered the TANF office with the intent to apply but who did not submit written applications. Currently, the state's contractor, ORC Macro, is administering the survey to the sample of 864 families, evenly split between diverted applicants and entrants. Their goal is a response rate of 70 to 75 percent. Analysis of the survey data will continue through Fall 2000, and the state expects to report results in early 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2001


This project represents the combined efforts of the Texas Department of Human Services, the Texas Workforce Commission, and the University of Texas-Austin. It focuses not only on informal divertees, but also on potential TANF applicants who are formally diverted by the state, either through a one-time lump sum payment or by redirection into work. The administrative data analysis incorporates a wide variety of sources, and tracks both applicants who are redirected into work or denied for non-financial reasons and participants in the lump-sum diversion program. The state has also recently added leavers to both the survey and administrative samples.

Intercept surveys were conducted with 30 applicants who were denied TANF for non-financial reasons, with a second wave survey to come four months after application (early 2001). The interviews with leavers, redirects, and formal divertees took place in 1999 and early 2000. Follow-up on individuals in these samples will be done using administrative data. The state expects to have some data available in Spring 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Spring 2001


Following up on the leavers grant that they received in FY 1998, Washington is studying formal and informal divertees and entrants. The state hopes to compare the experiences of individuals who participated in the state's Diversion Cash Assistance program, those who entered TANF, and those who were diverted and received assistance from neither program. They will be providing an analysis of administrative data for the full populations of each of these groups from the fourth quarters of 1997, 1998, and 1999, including data from up to 12 months prior to and 12 months after the selection quarter. The state has nearly completed administrative data collection.

The state completed its survey of individuals who applied for TANF or Diversion Cash Assistance between July and October of 1999. The survey effort, which was completed in May 2000 and took place between four and eight months after the time of application, resulted in a response rate of 84 percent. The state researchers hope to provide ASPE with a draft report containing both survey and administrative data by Winter 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Winter 2001

FY 1998


This study of individuals applying for Wisconsin Works (W-2) assistance in Milwaukee has been undertaken by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The project focuses on those who apply for W-2 and either enter the program, are determined to be ineligible, or appear to be eligible but are not enrolled. A six-month cohort of applicants is being tracked through a combination of linked administrative data and two waves of surveys.

Both waves of the survey, conducted at six and 12 months after application, are complete, and IRP is currently analyzing the survey results and using state administrative data to supplement the survey data. Preliminary analysis shows that over 40 percent of those families applying for W-2 had previously participated in the program. Wisconsin and IRP received an enhancement grant from ASPE in September 2000 to expand their work on the Milwaukee applicants project.

Estimated Completion Date: Summer 2001

Leavers Studies that also Examine Diverted Populations (Florida, San Mateo, and South Carolina)

Three FY1998 grants that have a primary focus of studying outcomes for families leaving welfare also include research on families that were formally or informally diverted from entering TANF. These three grants are Florida, a consortium of California counties, and South Carolina.

The Florida study, undertaken by researchers at Florida State University, examines three groups of individuals from the second quarter of 1997: TANF leavers, individuals who began the application process but who either withdrew voluntarily after completing the process or failed to complete the process ("diverts"), and individuals who receive food stamps or Medicaid, have minor children, and have income and assets below the cash assistance limit but who do not receive cash assistance ("opt-nots"). Preliminary findings from a report expected to be released in late Fall 2000 indicate that the "diverts" and "opt-nots" look very similar to leavers in Florida in terms of employment rates. However, leavers appear to have slightly higher earnings and slightly lower use of government services than the other two groups.

The study in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties in California was funded primarily as a leavers study. However, because the administrative system in all three counties includes all applications, and not just those for individuals who receive TANF, researchers at the SPHERE Institute were also able to study informal divertees. Analysis of administrative data is being supplemented by surveys administered at six and 12 months after "case closure" (when either the applicant withdraws from the application process or the TANF recipient leaves the program). The initial administrative data analysis found that children of informal divertees in the third quarter of 1997 were somewhat more likely than adults to use food stamps and Medicaid or return to TANF in the first 12 months following diversion. SPHERE and San Mateo are currently in the process of administering and analyzing a third wave of surveys, made possible by a continuation grant from ASPE in FY 1999. A draft report summarizing the first two waves of survey data along with linked administrative data should be available by December 2000 and a final report incorporating the third wave of survey data will be available in early 2001.

The project in South Carolina also is focused primarily on leavers, but state researchers have also used food stamp records to identify families that appear to be eligible for cash assistance but are not enrolled. They have also looked at applicants for cash assistance that did not enroll in the TANF program. Findings are not yet available.

Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2000 (Florida); February 2001 (San Mateo); Summer 2001 (South Carolina)