Status of Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2000. Major Projects Continued from FYs 1998 and/or 1999


National Academy of Sciences Panel Study on Welfare Outcomes

ASPE continues to conduct a Panel Study with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) 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. The purpose of convening this NAS Panel is 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 Academy's recommendations will provide HHS with a firm, scientific base upon which to pursue the Department's goals of evaluating the effects of this recent reform.

Throughout the course of this study, the Academy has conducted workshops and seminars focused on methodological issues associated with the study of welfare outcomes and published an Interim Report, Evaluating Welfare Reform: A Framework of Current Work. Prepublication copies of the Final Report are expected to be available in December, 2000. Information on the short-run recommendations for welfare evaluation strategies offered by the panel is included in Chapter II. The published Final Report will be disseminated in early 2001.

Estimated Completion Date: Final report March 2001

Devolution and Urban Change

This five-year project (which is primarily foundation-funded) is a multi-disciplinary study by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) of the implementation and impacts of welfare reform and welfare-to-work programs on low-income individuals, families and communities in four large urban areas: Cleveland, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Miami. Other Federal partners include HHS' Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Economic Research Service at USDA. The project brings together data from an unusually wide array of sources: longitudinal administrative data for all families receiving AFDC/TANF or Food Stamps dating back to 1992, survey data, an implementation study, neighborhood indicators, an institutional study focusing on local service providers, and an ethnographic study of a limited number of families. The project's first report, Big Cities and Welfare Reform: Early Implementation and Ethnographic Findings from the Project on Devolution and Urban Change, was released in June 1999. A working paper, Food Security and Hunger in Poor, Mother-Headed Families in Four U.S. Cities, was released in May 2000. Both reports are available at < on Devolution and Urban Change>.

Estimated Completion Date: September 2002

Support for Iowa State University SPD Project

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

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.

Estimated Completion Date: May 2001

Continuation of New Jersey Welfare/Substance Abuse Evaluation

In FY 1998 we began funding, in partnership with ACF, a three year grant to support the evaluation of a New Jersey initiative which aims to improve employment and family outcomes for TANF recipients with substance abuse problems through substance abuse treatment, intensive case management and supportive services. This evaluation will provide important information about the effectiveness of a type of intervention several states are experimenting with to move substance abusing welfare clients toward self-sufficiency. The intervention New Jersey is implementing includes screening of welfare recipients for substance abuse problems, treatment referral mechanisms with enhanced case management, and substance abuse treatment coordinated with employment and training or vocational services. The evaluation, using a random assignment model, compares two models for providing such services, looking at outcomes in several domains including employment and family self-sufficiency, substance use and associated behaviors, child development and family functioning, and child welfare involvement. The intervention being evaluated is intended to improve the post-welfare prospects of TANF recipients with substance abuse problems. The evaluation is being conducted in two New Jersey counties (Essex and Atlantic).

The grantee, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, will produce three products resulting from the evaluation which are intended for use by ACF and the state to disseminate information about the project. These include: (1) a descriptive profile of the population served by New Jersey's welfare-to-work program, including how many have substance use disorders as well as other barriers to self-sufficiency; (2) an implementation report describing the difficulties encountered and lessons learned about implementing these services, as well as issues to be considered in establishing substance abuse interventions in welfare contexts; and (3) an outcomes report describing outcomes for participants and controls 12 months post-treatment. ASPE and ACF have provided support for this project. Other aspects of the evaluation are being funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Department's National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Estimated Completion Date: Random assignment of clients to the intervention models began in mid-1999. Research Notes on the effectiveness of two approaches to screening and assessment of substance abuse in welfare settings, and on the initial rates of treatment engagement and retention for program participants versus the control group are expected in Winter 2001. We expect the baseline report in mid-2001, the implementation report late in 2001, and the outcomes report in 2002.

Technical Assistance on Researcher Access to Data Sets

Over the next six to twelve months, the states and counties that received FY 1998 and FY 1999 Welfare Outcomes grants will 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 has extended a task order contract with ORC-Macro 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.

Estimated Completion Date: September 2001

Research Technical Assistance on State Child Indicators Initiatives

Continuation funding is being 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

South Carolina Welfare Outcomes Grant

This project continues ASPE's support of a multi-year effort by the South Carolina's Office of Budget and Control Board's Office of Research and Statistics to link administrative data and additional data from surveys of former welfare recipients. The funds provided through an ACF cooperative agreement will allow South Carolina to continue its contract for the expansion of the follow-up studies.

Estimated Completion Date: Fall 2002