While these studies all tell a consistent story that families who remain on the TANF caseload are more disadvantaged than those who have left the studies do not measure the concept of disadvantage in a consistent way. In addition, with the exception of the 1999 Urban Institute study, these studies focus on examining the experiences of a cohort of TANF recipients over time, rather than describing the characteristics of the caseload at a point in time.
The completion of this current research will provide the grantee states and counties with an opportunity to develop a better understanding of the characteristics and needs of their current TANF caseloads. By developing a common survey instrument for states to use, it will be possible to examine whether the prevalence of common barriers to work is relatively consistent across the states, or whether there is significant variation from state to state. While these studies will not be able to examine whether the characteristics of the TANF caseload have changed over time, they will be able to offer significant insight into the challenges TANF agencies might face in helping families who remain on the TANF caseload move from welfare to work.