Who Is in the Data Set?

Every observation in the data set received AFDC-Regular (for single-parent families) in July 1995. The entire caseload at the time numbered 65,017. The following types of cases were eliminated from the data, with the number of cases eliminated (nonsequentially) with the restriction in parentheses:

  1. Cases that were open in July 1995 but did not receive any benefits (n=397).

  2. Cases where there were no children 18 or younger in July 1995 (n=843).

  3. Cases where all eligible children in the case are being cared for by a not-legally responsible relative (n=6,101).

  4. Cases where there are two parents (n=907).

  5. Cases where a case head is a teen mom—meaning there is an eligible adult under the age of 18 (n=47), or there is no eligible adult and a child is the caretaker (n=254).

  6. Cases involving a large family or two conjoined families where a single case head is unidentifiable (n=138).

  7. Cases for which UI data were not requested (n=47).

  8. Cases where the case head is over 65 years old (n=83).

  9. Cases with a male case head (n=1,888).

After eliminating these cases, the data set contained 54,518 cases; this is the data set used by Cancian et al. (1999). We further eliminated cases under the age of 21 in 1995. Because we were able to obtain data on AFDC receipt back to July 1989 and UI earnings reports back to January 1989, those under age 21 were eliminated because they were under the age of 15 in 1989 and not reasonably expected to be on AFDC or working. After eliminating these cases, our final number of observations is 48,216.

Definition of a Leaver

A welfare “leaver” is defined as a case that received AFDC in July 1995 and, over the course of the next year (until August 1996), stopped receiving benefits for 2 consecutive months.3 “Stayers” are those who did not stop receiving benefits for 2 consecutive months during the August 1995–August 1996 period. This period is referred to throughout the paper as the “exit period.” The “preexit period” is between January 1989 and July 1995. The “postexit period” for a leaver begins in the quarter the leaver exited welfare and continues until the last


This 2-month definition of a leaver was used in Cancian et al. (1999) and is being used by the leavers studies sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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