Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. What Leaver Studies Should Measure

06/01/2002

The primary role of leaver studies is to assess and track the well-being of welfare leavers; associating changes in the well-being of welfare leavers to changes in welfare policy plays a secondary role. Thus, an assessment of leaver studies requires us to address the following questions:

  • What do we mean by well-being?
  • How do we measure well-being?

When assessing a family's overall well-being, policy makers and researchers generally consider five areas: (1) income security, (2) employment, (3) health, (4) living arrangements, and (5) quality of life or hardships. Although one can be "rich and miserable" or "poor and happy," a family's financial resources, especially a lack of resources, are an important indicator of well-being. Thus, leaver studies should collect and present information on a family's income.(2) In addition to earned income, the studies should consider cash from friends and family, including child support payments, as well as public assistance in the form of cash and near-cash aid such as food stamps.

 

TABLE 12-1
List of Leaver Studies by State
State Title Author(s) Date Data Used
General Leaver Studies
Arizona-1* Arizona Cash Assistance Exit Study: First Quarter 1998 Cohort-Final Report Karen L. Westra and John Routley Jan-00 Survey/ Administrative
Arizona-2* Arizona Cash Assistance Exit Study: Cases Exiting Fourth Quarter 1996 Karen L. Westra and John Routley Jul-99 Administrative
California-Los Angeles County* Employment and Earnings of Single-Parent AFDC Leavers: Quarter 3 1996 Leavers: PRELIMINARY REPORT   Jan-99 Administrative
California-San Mateo County* Examining Circumstances of Individuals and Families who Leave TANF: Assessing the Validity of Administrative Data Anne Moses and David Mancuso May-99 Administrative
District of Columbia* The Status of TANF Leavers in the District of Columbia-Final Report Gregory Acs and Pamela Loprest Oct-99 Survey/Administrative
Florida The Family Transition Program: Implementation and Three-Year Impacts of Florida's Initial Time-Limited Welfare Program Dan Bloom, Mary Farell, James J. Kemple, and Nandita Verma Apr-99 Administrative
Georgia-1 Transition from Welfare to Work: Findings for the First Year of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Georgia Department of Human Resources Jan-98 Administrative
Georgia-2* Outcomes for Single-Parent Leavers by Cohort Quarter for Jan-Mar 99: Quarterly Progress Report: PRELIMINARY REPORT E. Michael Foster   Administrative
Idaho-1 Project Self-Reliance: TAFI Participant Closure Study (II) Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Spring 1998 Survey
Idaho-2 Differences Between a Surveyed Closed TAFI Case Population and Its "Unreachable" Subpopulation Idaho Department of Health and Welfare Winter 1998 Survey
Illinois-1 How are TANF Leavers Faring? Early Results from the Illinois TANF Closed Case Project Steve Anderson, George Julnes, Anthony Halter, David Gruenenfelder, and Linda Brumleve Aug-99 Survey
Illinois-2* Illinois Study of Former TANF Clients: Interim Report George Julnes and Anthony Halter Mar 00 Survey/ Administrative
Indiana The Indiana Welfare Reform Evaluation: Who is On and Who is Off? Comparing Characteristics and Outcomes for Current and Former TANF Recipients David J. Fein Sep-97 Survey
Kentucky From Welfare to Work: Welfare Reform in Kentucky Scott Cummings and John P. Nelson Jan-98 Survey
Maryland-1 Life After Welfare: An Interim Report University of Maryland- School of Social Work Sep-97 Administrative
Maryland-2 Life After Welfare: Second Interim Report University of Maryland- School of Social Work Mar-98 Administrative
Maryland-3 Life After Welfare Reform: Third Interim Report University of Maryland- School of Social Work Mar-98 Administrative
Massachusetts How are They Doing? A Longitudinal Study Tracking Households Leaving Welfare Under Massachusetts Refo Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance Apr-99 Survey
Mississippi Tracking of TANF Clients: First Report of a Longitudinal Study Jesse D. Beeler, Bill M. Brister, Sharon Chambry, and Anne L. McDonald Jan-99 Survey/Administrative
Missouri-1* Preliminary Outcomes for 1996 Fourth Quarter AFDC Leavers: Revised Interim Report Sharon Ryan Sep-99 Administrative
Missouri-2* Chapters 1-4: MRI Project No. 1033-1 Midwest Research Institute Jun-00 Survey
Montana Montana's Welfare Reform Project: Families Achieving Independence in Montana Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services Feb-98 Survey
New Mexico Survey of the New Mexico Case Closed AFDC Recipients University of New Mexico-Bureau of Business and Economic Research Sep-97 Survey
New York-1 Leaving Welfare: Findings from a Survey of Former New York City Welfare Recipients Andrew S. Bush, Swati Desai, and Lawrence M. Mead Sep-98 Survey
New York-2* After Welfare: A Study of Work and Benefit in New York State After Case Closing Rockefeller Institute Dec-99 Administrative
North Carolina-1 Evaluation of the North Carolina Work First Program: Initial Analysis of Administrative Data Maximus May-99. Administrative
North Carolina-2 Evaluation of the North Carolina Work First Program: Status of Families Leaving Work First After Reaching the 24-Month Time Limi Maximus May-99 Survey
Ohio-1 Cuyahoga County Work After Welfare: Employment in the 1996 Exit Cohort, Cuyahoga County Claudia Coulton, Marilyn Su, Neil Bania, and Edward Wang   Administrative
Ohio-2 Cuyahoga County* Employment and Return to Public Assistance Among Single, Female Headed Families Leaving AFDC in the Third Quarter,1996, Cuyahoga County, Ohio Claudia Coulton and Nandita Verma May-99 Administrative
Oklahoma Family Health and Well-Being In Oklahoma: An Exploratory Analysis of TANF Cases Closed and Denied October 1996-November 1997 Lynda Williams Sep-98 Survey
Pennsylvania TANF Closed-Case Telephone Survey Pennsylvania Bureau of Program Evaluation Feb-98 Survey
South Carolina-1 Former Clients of South Carolina's New Welfare Program: Trends and Issues in Surveys to Date Donald M. Klos   Survey
South Carolina-2 Survey of Former Family Independence Program Clients: Cases Closed During April Through June 1997 South Carolina Department of Social Services 12-Jun-98 Survey
South Carolina-3 Survey of Former Family Independence Program Clients: Cases Closed During July Through September 1997 South Carolina Department of Social Services 9-Oct-98 Survey
Tennessee Summary of Surveys of Welfare Recipients Employed or Sanctioned for Noncompliance Center for Manpower Studies Mar-98 Survey
Texas Texas Families in Transition: The Impacts of Welfare Reform Changes in Texas: Early Findings Texas Department of Human Services Dec-98 Survey
Virginia Fairfax Welfare Reform Evaluation Study Carole Kuhns, Danielle Hollar, and Renee Loeffler   Survey
Washington-1 Conversations with 65 Families City of Seattle Department of Housing and Human Services Mar-98 Survey
Washington-2 Washington's TANF Single-Parent Families Shortly After Welfare Washington Department of Social and Health Services Jul-98 Survey
Washington-3 Washington's TANF Single-Parent Families After Welfare Washington Department of Social and Health Services Jan-99 Survey
Washington-4* A Study of Washington State TANF Leavers and TANF Recipients Jay Ahn Feb-00 Administrative
Washington-5* A Study of Washington State TANF Leavers and TANF Recipients Debra Fogerty and Short Kraley Feb-00 Survey
Wisconsin-1 Post-Exit Earnings and Benefit Receipt Among Those Who Left AFDC in Wisconsin Marcia Cancian, Robert Haveman, Thomas Kaplan, and Barbara Wolfe Oct-98 Administrative
Wisconsin-2 Employment and Earnings of Milwaukee County Single Parent AFDC Families: Establishing Benchmarks for Measuring Employment Outcomes University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee, Employment and Training Institute   Administrative
Wisconsin-3 Survey of Those Leaving AFDC or W-2: January to March 1998 Preliminary Report Institute for Research on Poverty- University of Wisconsin 13-Jan-99 Survey
Wyoming A Survey of Power Recipients Western Management Services May-98 Survey
Sanctioned Leavers
Iowa Iowa's Limited Benefit Plan: Summary Report Thomas M. Fraker May-97 Survey
Michigan A Study of AFDC Case Closures Due to JOBS Sanctions: April 1996 AFDC Case Closures Laura Colville, Gerry Moore, Laura Smith, and Steve Smucker May-97 Survey
New Jersey Survey of WFNJ/TANF Case Closed to Sanction New Jersey Division of Family Development, Bureau of Quality Control Mar-98 Survey
* Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) funded study.

Because a central goal of PRWORA is to move families from welfare to work, it is also important to consider their employment situation. Employment should be measured at a point in time as well as over a period of time. For example, there can be a great deal of difference in how many leavers are working in a specific month compared to how many have worked at any point over the past year. Having both sets of data allows for broader understanding of employment among leavers.

Leaver studies also should collect data on the number of hours that leavers work and how much their jobs pay. Additional information about jobs is also beneficial, including whether their jobs have regular hours or schedules, whether adult leavers hold multiple jobs, what noncash benefits they receive, what the costs of working are (transportation, child care, job-related expenses such as work clothes or uniforms), and what skills are required for their jobs.

Health status and access to health insurance and health care also are important indicators of well-being. In addition to ascertaining the health status of adult leavers and their children, it is also important to ask whether the members of a leaver's family have health insurance coverage and what the sources of that coverage are (public programs such as Medicaid, employer-sponsored health plans, or other sources). Although insurance is generally a good indicator of access to health care, it is also useful to directly determine if a leaver can obtain medical attention when needed.

One goal of welfare reform is to foster stable families, but the strain of balancing a job and child care may be profound on low-income single mothers. Thus, it is also important to understand if leavers' families are breaking up, with children being sent off to live with friends or relatives. Similarly, leavers may struggle to maintain independent households, so a leaver study also should determine whether leavers are "crowding in" with friends or relatives. Alternatively, leavers may be forming stable two-adult households either through marriage or cohabitation.

It is also important to assess if leavers are facing hardships that cannot be captured by examining income alone. Thus, leaver studies also should consider whether leavers must struggle to meet their families' nutritional needs, pay their bills, or live in substandard housing. In addition, policy makers are concerned about the impact of welfare reform on children. To assess child well-being, leaver studies could gather information about children's school performance and behavioral problems, for example. Some studies also have gathered information on leaver families' involvement in the child welfare system.

Furthermore, leaver studies can examine how a leaver's status changes over time. This information helps to answer the question of whether a leaver's situation is improving during the transition off welfare and whether he or she is achieving self-sufficiency. Specifically, studies should try to learn whether leavers experience earnings growth over time and whether their use of public program benefits wanes over time.

Finally, it is also useful for leaver studies to fit their findings into a broader context. For example, even if leavers report high incidences of hardships, it is important to be able to know whether they are worse off since leaving welfare than before leaving welfare. Another approach is to compare leavers' outcomes to other groups, such as current welfare recipients or other low-income families who never received welfare, to better interpret how well they are faring.

Taken together, these five areas--income security, employment, health, living arrangements, and quality of life or hardships--can describe the well-being of TANF leavers. In addition, states should think about how to tailor their leaver studies to garner information that is of specific interest to them.

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