much different treatment than a person receiving cash assistance in Virginia. Depending on the variety of state programs that emerge, researchers may want to focus on certain programs within a particular state or the same program in several states; examining a single program across all states may not be possible.
Valuing program benefits will also become increasingly complex as cash benefits are replaced by in-kind vouchers and subsidies. How is a value placed on such benefits as health insurance, child care, food, shelter, marriage counseling, or wage subsidies? This issue has been confronted in previous evaluations of the Food Stamp and Medicaid programs, as well as of subsidized housing; in general, there are no easy solutions for assigning appropriate cash values to such benefits. Under the new law, the accurate and consistent valuation of a range of non-cash benefits will become increasingly important.
For certain analyses, even defining the appropriate outcomes may be difficult. PRWORA both explicitly and implicitly sets a number of new objectives for welfare programs in the United States. The previous goals of reducing poverty and providing a safety net remain, but there are also new objectives, such as decreasing unwed pregnancies, increasing labor force participation and hours worked, and changing the culture of welfare dependency. Although some of these new objectives can be measured, others, such as changing a culture, will be difficult even to define. The challenges for researchers to conduct meaningful analyses in an era of such significant program change are great.