A Study of Work Participation and Full Engagement Strategies. Levels of Engagement in Program Activities


Researchers and policymakers are interested not only in which strategies programs use to engage recipients but also in the extent to which the strategies have been successful. There is special interest in the extent to which TANF recipients are engaged in activities beyond those that are captured in the data reported by states to the federal government for purposes of calculating federal participation rates. This chapter presents findings from analyses of administrative data on program participation in two study sites that have management information systems (MIS) that contain substantially more data than used to calculate federal participation ratesВ  El Paso County, Colorado, and Utah.(1) These sites offer the broadest range of activities to the broadest group of TANF recipients and, as such, are not representative of the seven study sites or of TANF programs nationally.

In El Paso County, we conducted analyses of adult recipients on TANF in August 2003. In Utah, we conducted analyses of adult recipients on TANF in May 2003. Both months are typical in each site. The analyses focus on four research questions:

  • To what activities are TANF recipients assigned?
  • For how many hours do recipients participate in activities relative to the hours they are assigned?
  • To what extent do recipients remain engaged in activities over time, and to what extent do they progress from activities that are not considered in the federal participation rate calculation to activities that are?
  • To what extent does the federal participation rate capture activities in El Paso County and Utah?

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