Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Definition of a Leaver

06/01/2002

A welfare "leaver" is defined as a case that received AFDC in July 1995 and, over the course of the next year (until August 1996), stopped receiving benefits for 2 consecutive months.(3) "Stayers" are those who did not stop receiving benefits for 2 consecutive months during the August 1995-August 1996 period. This period is referred to throughout the paper as the "exit period." The "preexit period" is between January 1989 and July 1995. The "postexit period" for a leaver begins in the quarter the leaver exited welfare and continues until the last quarter of 1997. For a stayer, the postexit period is between July 1996 and the last quarter of 1997. Stayers may have left welfare after August 1996 but did not do so during the exit period.

Two alternative definitions of leavers were explored; first, only those who stopped receiving benefits for 3 consecutive months from August 1995 to September 1996 were considered leavers, and a more stringent definition of a leaver considered only those who stopped receiving benefits for 6 consecutive months from August 1995 to December 1996 to be leavers. Caseload composition and outcomes using these definitions are reported in Appendix 13-A. In general, we find only small changes in the demographic composition of the group of leavers under a more restrictive definition of a leaver, that is, one who has stayed off of welfare for 6 consecutive months. The differences in demographic composition between 2-month and 3-month leavers are negligible. Outcomes of leavers change slightly with the more restrictive definition of leavers, as 6-month leavers are less likely to return to welfare and have modestly higher earnings than 2-month and 3-month leavers.

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