Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues. The Work Histories of the Caseload in July 1995

06/01/2002

A principal emphasis of the 1996 welfare reforms was to push welfare recipients into work and work-related activities. Not surprisingly, most studies of welfare leavers focus on the work outcomes of leavers, whether they have and keep jobs, what their wages are, and how their wages change as they work more. As recipients leave welfare, we would expect those with more work experience to have better outcomes. To assess whether this hypothesis is correct, we have classified the entire caseload in July 1995, by the number and percentage of quarters between January 1989 and July 1995, in which the case had nonzero UI wage reports. Table 13-4 shows the distribution of prior work experience. We find that most of the caseload did not have much work experience during this time period. Less than a quarter of the caseload (21 percent) had worked more than half the quarters. Nearly 20 percent had no reported earnings during the time frame, 34 percent had earnings in less than 25 of the quarters, and 26 percent worked between 25 and 50 percent of the time between January 1989 and July 1995.

TABLE 13-4
Work Histories of Aid to Families with Dependent Children Recipients (1/89 - 7/95)
Percent of Quarters with Nonzero Earnings Number Percent
No quarters with earnings 9,523 19.8
0 < x 25% of quarters 16,369 34
25 < x 50% of quarters 12,269 25.5
50 < x 75% of quarters 6,770 14.4
More than 75% of quarters 3,285 6.8

What is the relationship between work history and welfare receipt history? Table13-5 shows the distribution of work history across short-termer, long-termer, and cycler status. The table shows that those who cycle on and off welfare have the most work experience. Only 6 percent of cyclers had never worked in the preexit period. This is in comparison to 23 percent of long-termers and 21 percent of short-termers. Cyclers are also more concentrated at the higher end of the work experience distribution. A third of cyclers had worked between 26 and 50 percent of the quarters prior to the exit period, 24 percent had worked more than half but less than 75 percent of the quarters prior to exit and 13 percent had worked more than 75 percent of the quarters. Long-termers have the least work experience. Almost 63 percent of long-termers had worked fewer than 25 percent of the quarters. This is relative to 48 percent for short-termers and 30 percent for cyclers. To summarize, short-termers generally had less work experience than cyclers, but more than long-termers. Long-termers had the least amount of work experience. This is not surprising as we would expect those who are the most dependent on welfare to also be the least likely to hold jobs.

TABLE 13- 5
Work Histories of Aid to Families with Dependent Children Recipients
by Short-Termer, Long-Termer, or Cycler Statu
s
Welfare Receipt History Percent of Quarters Worked 1/89 to 7/95
None 0 to 25% 26 to 50% 50 to 75% More than 75%
Short-termer 20.9 27.3 21.8 18.4 11.5
Long-termer 22.5 40.2 25.5 9.1 2.7
Cycler 6.4 23.8 33.2 24 12.7

Throughout the rest of this paper, the short-term, long-term and cycler definitions of welfare receipt history and the categories of work history will be used to stratify outcomes of leavers and stayers. The distinctions are used to illustrate how the outcomes of leavers can vary by the characteristics of the people leaving the caseload at the time the welfare leaver sample is drawn. These categorizations are also given as an example of a crude means of standardizing outcomes across different leavers studies.

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