Tracking Welfare Reform: Designing Followup Studies of Recipients Who Leave Welfare. How Quickly Does the State Need the Study Findings?

05/19/1998

The timing of reporting is another key concern. For studies that aim to provide feedback to inform ongoing policymaking efforts, the time span between the collection and the reporting of data is critical. Policymakers often need to know quickly about how well the reforms are working and what changes may be needed to improve the program. Studies keyed to rapid reporting can help answer doubts about how the program is working as well as identify problems so that they can be addressed. Timing is particularly important in states where the legislature's involvement in policymaking and appropriations is necessary. Studies should be designed with an eye toward timely feedback for policymaking purposes even though such a design might not be as useful for documenting the effects of welfare reforms.

Designing a followup study requires making choices about what information is most important and then adopting the approaches best suited to collect that information. Several states are combining different strategies because of their desire to answer what they view as critical questions. Many states are also developing long-term followup strategies that address immediate questions as quickly as possible and address other questions in a longer timeframe.