Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. Who is a Leaver and Who is a Stayer

06/01/2002

Table 13-6 describes characteristics of those who left welfare between July 1995 and July 1996 and those who did not leave during this time period. This time period coincides with the beginning of the very steep decline in the AFDC caseload in Wisconsin (see Cancian et al., 1999). During the exit period overall 48 percent of the caseload stopped receiving AFDC, and 52 percent remained on AFDC. This substantial decline continued through the end of 1997, the last year covered in these data, so that many of the stayers later left welfare.

As expected, leavers are more educated than stayers. About 64 percent of leavers had at least a high school diploma, but only 50 percent of stayers did. Leavers are more likely to be white than African Americans or Hispanic. Leavers are a bit younger than stayers. Stayers are more likely to live in Milwaukee, while leavers are more likely to live in rural and other urban areas of the state. Leavers are also less likely to have a child receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI), payments as 8 percent of leavers had a child that received SSI compared to 13 percent of stayers. Again, this is not surprising given that having a child on SSI may make finding work or an alternative means of subsistence more of a burden. The youngest children of leavers are, in general, a little bit older than the youngest children of stayers.

In terms of welfare receipt history, as expected, leavers have shorter histories than stayers. Of leavers 39 percent were short-term welfare users in the preexit period compared to 23 percent of stayers. On the other hand, 67 percentage of stayers were long-termers compared to only 43 percent of leavers. Cyclers made up 17.9 percent of the leavers but 10 percent of the stayers. The total percentage of time spent on AFDC in the preexit period is also calculated for leavers and stayers. In general, stayers have spent more time on welfare than leavers. Seventy-four percent of stayers spent more than half of the preexit period on AFDC compared to 56 percent of leavers. As a final measure of welfare receipt history, the average length of AFDC receipt spells was calculated for both leavers and stayers. The mean spell length in the preexit period of leavers was about 28 months compared to 41 months for stayers. This is a substantial difference (46 percent).

Leavers also worked more quarters during the preexit period than stayers, as expected. Although about 25 percent of the stayers had never worked in the period prior to July 1995, only 14 percent of leavers had never worked. Twenty-eight percent of leavers worked for at least half the quarters prior to the preexit period compared to only 14 percent of stayers.

To summarize Table 13-6, as expected, those who left welfare had more education and more work experience than stayers. Over all four measures of prior AFDC receipt, we see that those who were on AFDC longer have substantially lower exit rates. Leavers were also more likely to be non-minority and to come from counties other than Milwaukee. Leavers are also slightly younger than stayers. In general, leavers tend to be those who face fewer barriers to leaving than stayers do.

TABLE 13-6
Characteristics of Welfare Leavers (full sample N=48,216)
Characteristics Full Sample Leaver Stayer
Total number 48,216 23,207 25,009
Percent of sample 100.0 48.1 51.9
Race/ethnicity
% black 43.0 32.2 48.1
% Hispanic 6.8 6.4 7.1
% white 50.2 61.4 44.8
Age of case head
% <26 years old 36.3 37.1 35.5
% 27-31 24.4 25.2 23.7
% 32-41 31.6 30.9 32.2
% 42+ 7.8 6.8 8.6
Education of case head
% less than high school 43.4 36.1 50.2
% high school diploma 41.4 45.3 37.7
% some college 15.2 18.6 12.1
County of residence
Milwaukee County 54.3 42.4 65.3
Other urban county 29.6 35.6 24.1
Rural 16.1 22.0 10.6
Percent with child on SSI 10.7 8.1 13.1
Age of youngest child
% 0 to 1 year 28.2 27.1 29.2
% 2 to 4 years 31.2 31.4 31.0
% 5 to 11 years 29.8 29.7 29.9
% 12 or older 10.8 11.8 9.9
Welfare history (7/89 to 7/95)
% Short-termer 30.8 39.1 23.1
% Long-termer 55.3 42.9 66.7
% Cycler 13.9 17.9 10.2
Percent of time on welfare (7/89 to 7/95)
0 <= x < 25% of time 17.2 23.5 11.3
25 <= x < 50% of time 17.2 20.4 14.3
50 <= x < 100% of time 44.6 43.7 45.4
Always on 21.0 12.4 29.0
Mean AFDC spell length
7/89 to 7/95 (in months)
34.6
(25.2)
27.5
(23.2)
41.23
(25.2)
Median AFDC spell length 7/89 to 7/95 (in months) 28 20 35
% of quarters with earnings (1/89 to 7/95)
Never worked 19.8 14.0 25.1
0 < x <= 25% 34.0 30.0 37.6
25 < x <= 50% 25.5 28.0 23.1
50 < x <= 75% 14.0 17.7 10.6
More than 75% of quarters 6.8 10.3 3.6

Table 13-7 shows the percentage of the caseload that left welfare by past AFDC receipt and past earnings histories. Again, we see that those who have received welfare for longer periods of time and those with the least work experience are the least likely to leave welfare. The percentage who left welfare by categories of the number of quarters with earnings prior to the exit period are also given. As expected, those who worked the least in the preexit period were the least likely to leave welfare. Of those with no earnings, only 34 percent left AFDC. This is in comparison to 73 percent of those with the most work experience--those with earnings in more than three-quarters of the preexit quarters. In general, the percentage who left welfare increases as the percentage of quarters with earnings increases.

Table 13-7 shows vast differences in the leaving rates for those with previous AFDC receipt and earnings histories. Long-term recipients are likely to be those who face the highest barriers to employment and self-sufficiency, which is probably why fewer leave welfare. Those who have worked little in the past are likely to have a harder time finding employment and are likely to earn less when they are employed. Employment, earnings, further public assistance receipt, and other outcomes of leavers will also vary widely across these AFDC receipt and work histories.

TABLE 13-7
Leaving Rates for Recipients With Different Recipiency and Work Histories
  Percent of Total Sample in Subgroup Percent of Sub-group That Left Welfare
Past welfare receipt history
Short-termer 30.8 61.1
Long-termer 55.3 37.4
Cycler 13.9 62.2
Percent of quarters with earnings (1/89-7/95)
Never worked 19.8 34.2
0-25% of quarters 34.0 42.6
26-50% of quarters 25.5 52.9
51-75% of quarters 14.0 60.8
More than 75% of quarters 6.8 72.5

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