National Studies

Informing the Welfare Debate: Perspectives on the Transformation of Social Policy

The Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) began this project in 1995 in the hope that an academic entity such as IRP might contribute broader analysis and historical perspective to a welfare debate sometimes characterized by opinion and partisan positioning. The goals of the project were to produce objective, credible, and readable documents summarizing current knowledge in critical areas of the welfare reform debate; to disseminate these documents widely among policymakers engaged in welfare reform efforts at the federal, state, and local levels; and, as feasible, to conduct workshops and conferences.

IRP discussion papers, reprints, and special reports

Dynamics of Material Hardship in the Women's Employment Study
Colleen M. Heflin

This paper asks: Within a welfare sample, how common are experiences of material hardship over time? Are some forms of material hardship more common than others? Do women experience multiple hardships? The author analyzes data from the Women's Employment Study on different forms of material hardship (food insufficiency, telephone disconnection, utility disconnection, unmet medical needs, improper winter clothing, and housing problems). The level of women ever reporting each form of hardship was substantially higher than in other studies, and women were likely to experience multiple forms of hardship over the observation period. (DP 1315-06)

Examining the Effect of the Earned Income Tax Credit on the Labor Market Participation of Families on Welfare
V. Joseph Hotz, Charles H. Mullin, and John Karl Scholz

This paper uses a unique dataset, created by matching administrative data from public assistance records, unemployment insurance records, and federal tax returns for a sample of California residents, to study the employment effects of the earned income tax credit (EITC). At the core of our empirical analysis is a set of four tests that we use to assess the causal effects of the EITC on employment. (DP 1313-05)

Report on a Meta-Analysis of Welfare-to-Work Programs
David Greenberg, Andreas Cebulla, and Stacey Bouchet

This report uses meta-analysis, a set of statistically based techniques for combining quantitative findings from different studies, to synthesize estimates of program effects from random assignment evaluations of welfare-to-work programs and to explore the factors that best explain differences in the programs' performance. All the programs included in the analysis targeted recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC; now called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, TANF). (DP 1312-05)

Welfare-Induced Migration at State Borders: New Evidence from Micro-Data
Terra McKinnish

This paper extends and synthesizes the various approaches used in the recent welfare migration literature to offer the most comprehensive set of tests to date for welfare migration. The results are largely consistent with the presence of welfare migration effects and the substantial importance of short-distance moves in welfare-induced migration flows. (DP 1306-05)

Transitions in Welfare Participation and Female Headship
J. Fitzgerald and D. Ribar

This study uses data from the 1990, 1992, 1993, and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine how welfare policies and local economic conditions contribute to women's transitions into and out of female headship and into and out of welfare participation. It also examines whether welfare participation is directly associated with longer spells of headship. (DP 1275-03)

State Fiscal Responses to Welfare Reform during Recessions: Lessons for the Future
Howard Chernick and Andrew Reschovsky

This paper addresses two questions. First, in periods of recession or slow economic growth, will state governments be able to meet the needs of their low-income residents for public assistance? A slowing economy not only reduces state tax revenue but also increases the need for fiscal assistance for low-income state residents. Second, will states be willing to devote adequate resources to "safety net" programs? In periods of fiscal stress, will state governments choose instead to satisfy other claims on state resources? (DP 1270-03)

The Role of Non-Financial Factors in Exit and Entry in the TANF Program
Robert Moffitt

This paper focuses on the role of non-financial factors in exit and entry in the post-1996 TANF program, using data from a study of welfare and nonwelfare families in Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio in the period 1999–2001. Both descriptive evidence and evidence from an econometric model suggest that work and other requirements, sanctions, and diversion played a large role in exit and entry over the period. (DP 1265-03)

Milton Friedman, the Negative Income Tax, and the Evolution of U.S. Welfare Policy
Robert A. Moffitt

The negative income tax represents one of the fundamental ideas of modern welfare policy, offering a powerful lesson for work incentives in welfare programs. Actual welfare policy developments in the United States have exhibited strong trends both consistent and inconsistent with the negative income tax ideal. On the one hand, the Earned Income Tax Credit has produced a negative income tax-like program; on the other hand, the rise of a work requirement philosophy and the increasing categorization of the population into different, multiple programs represent the antithesis of the negative income tax. (DP 1260-03)

Welfare Reform and New York City's Low-Income Population
H. Chernick and C. Reimers

To evaluate the initial effects of welfare reform and changes in New York City policies and administrative procedures, we use the Current Population Survey (CPS) to compare receipt of public benefit programs, earnings, and income among vulnerable households, defined as those households with low education or single mothers in 1994-95 and 1997-99. (DP 1256-02)

The Impact of South Carolina's Family Independence Program on Movers, Stayers, and Those in Between
M. Edelhoch, Q. Liu, L. Martin, and M. Wiseman

The consequences of introduction of South Carolina's TANF program for closure and for outcomes for leavers are related to the authors' measure of expected case duration. Among all leavers, those who could have been expected to leave welfare fastest appear on average to be most vulnerable to incidents of food deprivation. The authors conclude that the proposed distinction of recipients as long-term, short-term, or cyclers is difficult to apply in practice. (DP 1250-02)

Before and After TANF: The Economic Well-Being of Women leaving Welfare
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, D. Meyer, and B. Wolfe

Compares the postexit earnings, employment, and incomes of recent leavers with those who left welfare two years earlier, and also compares a measure of postexit income to each woman's measured income in the quarter before welfare exit. (DP 1244-02)

How Will Welfare Reform Affect Childbearing and Family Structure Decisions?
H. Peters, R. Plotnick, and S.-O. Jeong

The paper summarizes changes in key elements of welfare policy and changes in closely related policies on child support enforcement and family planning programs, concluding that reform has modestly shifted welfare incentives in directions desired by policymakers. (DP 1239-01)

Job Performance and Retention among Welfare Recipients
H. Holzer, M. Stoll, and D. Wissoker

Data from a recent survey of employers indicate that most welfare recipients perform as well as or better than employees in comparable jobs, and that their turnover rates appear fairly low. Absenteeism is pervasive and is often linked to child care and transportation problems. Poor attitudes toward work and poor relations with coworkers are fairly frequently observed and are strongly related to job performance and retention difficulties. (DP 1237-01)

Welfare Reform and Household Saving
E. Hurst and J. Ziliak

In order to receive many forms of government assistance, a household's assets must be below the federal or state mandated limits. In this paper, we use micro-level data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to examine the impact of new saving incentives that were implemented as part of the overhaul of U.S. welfare policy during the mid-1990s on the saving of households at risk of entering welfare. (DP 1234-01)

Explaining Variation in the Effects of Welfare-to-Work Programs
M. Greenberg, R. Meyer, C. Michalopoulos, and M. Wiseman

The authors question the legitimacy of combining the results from multiple sites when evaluating government-funded employment and training programs. (DP 1225-01)

Britain's New Deal and the Next Round of U.S. Welfare Reform
R. Walker and M. Wiseman

This paper reviews the ideology, strategy, and implementation of British welfare innovations with regard to links to US reforms and as a source of new perspectives and ideas for the upcoming debate on TANF reauthorization. (DP 1223-01)

Welfare Benefits and Female Headship in U.S. Time Series
R. Moffitt

This paper reexamines time-series evidence with particular attention to the role of wages in explaining trends in headship and notes that the correct specification includes male as well as female wages. When both are controlled, welfare benefits have a slight positive impact on female headship even in time series. The results demonstrate the importance of labor market factors in explaining trends in female headship. (DP 1219-01)

Welfare Reform and Food Stamp Caseload Dynamics
J. P. Ziliak, C. Gundersen, and D. N. Figlio

The results of this study suggest that the estimated aggregate effect of welfare reform on the recent decline in food stamp caseloads is modest; the decline has been influenced substantially by the robust economy, however. (DP 1215-00)

Welfare's Children
M. Wiseman

This paper reports estimates of the number and cost implications of infants conceived by mothers on welfare in California and the effects of family cap policies on such births. (DP 1212-00)

Incentives, Challenges, and Dilemmas of TANF
B. Wolfe

An analysis of the old and new welfare programs in four states highlights the difficulty of simultaneously providing incentives to work and avoiding high marginal rates of taxation. (DP 1209-00)

Experienced-Based Measures of Heterogeneity in the Welfare Caseload
R. Moffitt

RPT 835 (Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 473-499).

The approach taken in this chapter examines heterogeneity as measured by the recipient's own welfare experience ("experienced-based" measures of heterogeneity). The analysis shows that the single most consistent predictor of labor market potential is the total amount of time a woman has been on welfare.

Preexit Benefit Receipt and Employment Histories and Postexit Outcomes of Welfare Leavers
M. Ver Ploeg

RPT 834 (Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 415-472).

In examining the outcomes of welfare leavers, it is important to characterize the caseload by their past work experience and by their past benefit receipt history because outcomes vary widely across different work experience and benefit receipt backgrounds.

Ten Years Later: Economic Well-Being Among Those Who Left Welfare
D. Meyer and M. Cancian

RPT 832 (Journal of Applied Social Sciences 25, no. 1 [Fall/Winter 2000/2001], pp. 13–30).

Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 through 1996, the article describes the economic well-being of young single mothers who exited welfare over the ten years thereafter. Some women achieve moderate levels of economic success, but a substantial number of these women and their families remain economically vulnerable.

How Teen Mothers Are Faring under Welfare Reform
A. Kalil and S.K. Danziger

RPT 826 (Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 56, no. 4 [2000], pp. 775-798).

We examine socioeconomic and psychological well-being among 88 low-income minor mothers. Half of the young mothers receive cash welfare assistance and face new policy mandates regarding coresidence status and school attendance. Although most appear to be "complying" with the requirements of the new welfare rules and are satisfied with their current living arrangements, many are faring poorly on dimensions of psychological well-being and life stress. Receipt of cash welfare is not a significant correlate of school success, parenting stress, or economic strain.

How Welfare Reform Is Affecting Women's Work
M. Corcoran, S. K. Danziger, A. Kalil, and K. Seefeldt

RPT 822 (Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26 [2000], pp. 241-269).

The new welfare system mandates participation in work activity. The authors review the evolution of the 1996 legislation and how states implement welfare reform, examining evidence on recipients' employment, well-being, and future earnings potential to assess the role of welfare in women's work.

Welfare to Work in the U.S.: A Model for Other Developed Nations?
R. Haveman and B. Wolfe

RPT 812 (International Tax and Public Finance, Vol. 7, no. 1 (February 2000), pp. 95-114).

The authors describe the problems inherent in U.S. social welfare policy prior to TANF (emphasizing its serious labor supply disincentives), catalogue the wide variety of economic changes implicit in TANF, and describe the policies undertaken by the state of Wisconsin, a leader in implementing the new federal policy.

Work After Welfare: Women's Work Effort, Occupation, and Economic Well-Being
M.Cancian and D. Meyer

RPT 806 (Social Work Research, Vol. 24, no.2 [June 2000], pp. 69-86).

Current welfare reforms attempt to move low-income women with children from welfare to work. With data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the authors analyzed the relationship between work history and economic success during the first five years after women leave welfare.

State Fiscal Responses to Block Grants: Will the Social Safety Net Survive?
H. Chernick and A. Reschovsky

RPT 804 (The End of Welfare? Consequences of Federal Devolution for the Nation, ed. Max B. Sawicky [M. E. Sharpe, Inc., 2000], pp. 157-193).

The federal government has made radical changes in the system of intergovernmental finance in the United States. The primary federal responsibility is now to provide block grants to the states, with the states bearing the full cost of spending above the level of the block grants. This chapter summarizes what we know about how state governments are likely to respond to this new fiscal environment.

Explaining Welfare Reform: Public Choice and the Labor Market
R. Moffitt

RPT 802 (International Tax and Public Finance, Vol. 6 [1999], pp. 289-315).

This paper seeks to identify factors which could plausibly have led to the contractionary welfare reform initiatives begun at the state and federal levels in the U.S. in the 1990s, initiatives concentrated on the AFDC program.