Status of Research on the Outcomes of Welfare Reform, 2000. Other New Projects


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 are also providing care for family members who are elderly or who have special needs. Employers often require that low-wage workers work non-standard and irregular hours. There are numerous questions about what is going on in the lives of these parents, including those who are teen parents and those leaving TANF assistance and entering the labor force for the first time. This project will look at coping mechanisms and examine 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, time management, money management and other life skills. The project will also investigate what is happening to children, and how they are being cared for when parents, for example, have to work changing shifts. The project will commission a set of research papers, convene a conference of researchers and policy makers, and disseminate a conference volume.

From Prisons to Home: The Effect of Incarceration on Children, Families, and Low-Income Communities

A majority of incarcerated men and women are parents, and the impact of incarceration appears to be greatest in poor, minority, urban communities. The toll on children, families, and communities has caused increasing concern, and a growing realization that families served by TANF and other Department of Health and Human Services programs are families who are also more likely to experience the effects of incarceration. This project will produce a literature review, commissioned papers, and a conference in order to develop a research and practice baseline on what is known and knowable about this high-risk, high-welfare use population. Specifically, the project will focus on five issues: 1) support for continued parenting of children, including living arrangements for children during and after incarceration; 2) loss of financial resources, including issues of TANF eligibility, unemployment, and child support payments; 3) the possibility of losing custody or having parental rights terminated because of incarceration, especially when related to drug and alcohol addictions; 4) lack of availability of appropriate treatment programs for substance abuse and mental illness, both within the prison system and post-release; and 5) integration of inmate rehabilitation services with post-release community interventions for the inmate and his/her children and families. Related issues, such as the effect of pre- and post-incarceration interventions on welfare usage, will also be addressed.

The Feasibility of Replicating the Women's Employment Study

Widespread anecdotal evidence suggests that the welfare caseload is becoming increasingly harder to employ, as the more job ready 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. It will commission and convene a panel of experts to address a variety of issues that would identify how to frame an optimal caseload survey. 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?"

Support to the New Immigrant Survey

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. Over the last three years, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the National Institutes of Health (NICHD and NIA) have jointly funded a feasibility/design study for the New Immigrant Survey, a large, longitudinal survey of recently arriving immigrants beginning in 2000. Although ASPE did not provide funding for the design study, we provided significant input to the planning of the study and the development of the pilot instruments. INS and NIH will remain the principal funders of the survey, but are seeking a broader set of funders. ASPE's contribution 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.

Poor Families with Infants and Toddlers

Low-income parents of infants and toddlers are challenged to balance work or school activities with the responsibilities of nurturing their young children. These challenges affect parents who are receiving welfare in the post-PRWORA environment as well as former recipients and the working poor. In order to meet their responsibilities, these families need access to high quality child care that fits their work schedules as well as other supportive services. Despite what we know about the particular challenges facing poor families with infants and toddlers, we know little about how these families are faring in the aftermath of welfare reform and whether states and communities have developed strategies to provide them with high quality child care and other services. This project will study strategies which states and communities are pursuing to provide high quality child care and other support services for welfare and working poor families with infants and toddlers. Some of these strategies are being evaluated. This effort will go beyond the few existing basic descriptions of these strategies to provide analysis of how these initiatives have been structured, promising practices or areas of concern, and key outcomes which have been measured. It will also provide a much needed synthesis of the available research evidence and identify measures which have been used to document improvement for use in future evaluations and monitoring efforts.

Research Design Framework for the FPLS Database

The Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) contains the complete national quarterly wage (unemployment insurance and Federal employment) and new hire databases and provides extensive opportunities for doing welfare employment outcomes and child support research using data from these records. The legislation governing the FPLS stipulates that the data contained in the system must be removed after two (2) years, but allows the creation of research samples which endure past that point. ASPE staff have been working with ACF to design a research framework for such samples, which includes matching samples of cases in the system with other administrative data systems in order to get sociodemographic characteristics and program participation data for the samples. ACF has brought a contractor on board to do a research design framework, and ASPE is supporting their project.

The Effects of the Work Pays Demonstration, EITC Expansions and the Business Cycle on the Labor Market Behavior of the California Caseload

This project is will examine the effect of: 1) welfare changes, 2) the 1990 and 1993 expansions of the EITC, and 3) changes in the business cycle on three specific issues concerning the California welfare population. These issues include: 1) how do these factors contribute to the economic well-being of families; 2) how do they affect labor market and transfer program participation; and 3) how do they affect employment changes and earnings trajectories? The project will use California administrative data drawn from the welfare, unemployment insurance, and tax systems.

Enhancement of the Study of Trends in Emergency Assistance Related to TANF

This project, jointly funded with the Office of Program Systems (PS) within ASPE, examines the trends in the demand for emergency assistance services, such as homeless shelters and food banks, from the mid-1990's to 2000. There are two grants, one covering the State of Massachusetts and another in San Mateo County, California. Researchers are collecting information from providers of these services and other socioeconomic data in order to examine the changing patterns of usage during the period of economic expansion and declining welfare caseloads before and after welfare reform. The final reports will provide information on whether welfare reform is associated with any change in the demand for emergency services. Both projects are now in the data collection phase. In order to provide a more extensive evaluation of this policy question, the Office of Program Systems and HSP jointly funded an Intra-Agency Agreement with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) during FY 2000. SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services also added funding to the Agreement. SAMHSA has awarded a contract that adds two sites to this analysis, using timeframes and emergency assistance analyses that are consistent with the above grants. The contract is being jointly monitored by ASPE and SAMHSA.

Conference on Developing Public Policy Applications with the American Community Survey and Local Administrative Records

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a new Census Bureau program that will make regular intercensal estimates of the distribution of characteristics of households, families and persons in small areas such as census tracts and for small population groups (for example, specific Asian or Hispanic nationality groups, specific age groups, and so forth). It is currently being conducted in 31 diverse sites across the country. The Census Bureau expects to fully implement the survey in every county starting in 2003. This conference convened a group of researchers, policy makers and local practitioners to explore the potential uses of this new data source and to explore the development of econometric models that combine ACS data with local area administrative data and local business economic data to provide local area data. This conference was jointly sponsored by the Bureau of the Census and ASPE.

Support for use of NDNH for Welfare Outcomes Research

Through an interagency agreement with the ACF's Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), ASPE provided funds to support statistical research using matched new hire and quarterly wage data from the files of the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) database. Use of NDNH data improves the quality of the information on employment outcomes, because this database captures employment in other jurisdictions, or with the federal government, which does not appear in state Unemployment Insurance records. ASPE funds are supporting programming time and other one-time infrastructure costs related to linkages between the NDNH data and samples drawn for research projects, such as the ASPE-funded grants to study welfare outcomes of former TANF recipients. OCSE performed this match for the District of Columbia, one of ASPE's FY 1998 welfare outcome grantees, and other grantees are considering requesting additional matches.

Quick Turnaround Analyses under Welfare Reform

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program will be up for reauthorization in October 2002, as will be the Child Care and Development Block Grant, the Food Stamp Program, and several other programs. It is anticipated that, as in the period before enactment of TANF, ASPE will be called upon to contribute to the expected reauthorization debates by providing analyses of policy issues and options, especially those affecting low-income children and families. Under this project, ASPE has awarded a task order contract to the Urban Institute to have the Institute perform very quick analyses of existing data sets, such as the Current Population Survey (CPS), the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), data from the Urban Institute's National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), administrative data on the TANF program, state policy data, and others. Data analyses will provide information about the characteristics of children and families across a wide range of policy relevant topics, such as the effects of welfare reform on child and family well-being, transitions to employment, immigrants, poverty rates, child poverty, etc. Some of these analyses will inform policy debates on the interactions with food stamps, Medicaid/SCHIP and SSI; others into the impact of state policy changes made as a result of the flexibility of the TANF law. Other questions could be identified during the reauthorization process. Each question is expected to result in a deliverable of a memorandum with detailed tables.

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

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.

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

This project supports the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) Research Forum database and website. The website 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.