INTRODUCTION

A major component of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 was to emphasize that receipt of public benefits for the poor should be temporary. The act ended the federal entitlement program for low-income families and children (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, AFDC) with a program financed by state-administered block grants, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Before PRWORA and the waiver programs of the late 1980s and 1990s (state experiments with different program rules), families were entitled to receive benefits as long as they met eligibility requirements; the new law requires recipients to work or participate in work-related activities, and recipients are subject to a life-time limit of 60 cumulative months of benefit receipt. 1

With this increased effort to move recipients off of welfare (and an unprecedented decrease in the welfare caseload), many monitoring and evaluation studies have been devoted to tracking and measuring the outcomes of those families who leave welfare. Many studies of welfare leavers have already been conducted, and several reviews of the leaver studies have also been conducted (Brauner and Loprest, 1999; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999; National Governors' Association et al., 1998; Parrott, 1998; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998). The number of welfare leaver studies is growing, too. A fiscal 1998 congressional appropriation was given to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to fund studies to track those who leave welfare. ASPE subsequently awarded grants to 14 states, counties, and county groups to track those who leave welfare, using primarily administrative data and survey data.2 This same appropriation requested that ASPE fund a National Academy of Sciences panel to, among other things, provide guidance on the ASPE research plan for tracking former welfare recipients. ASPE asked the Committee on National Statistics at the National Research Council to convene the Panel on Data and Methods for Measuring the Effects of Changes in Social Welfare Programs.

The panel is broadly charged to review data needs and methods for evaluating the outcomes of changes in social welfare programs on families and individuals. The panel is specifically charged to assist the department in (1) identifying how best to measure and track program eligibility, participation, child well-being and other outcomes, (2) evaluating data, research designs, and methodologies for the study of welfare reform outcomes and (3) identifying needed areas and topics

1  

A summary of the PRWORA legislation can be found in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1998), and a summary of state rules for TANF can be found in Gallagher et al. (1998).

2  

For a summary of the 14 studies, see National Research Council (1999).



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DATA AND METHODOLOGICAL ISSUES FOR TRACKING FORMER WELFARE RECIPIENTS: A WORKSHOP SUMMARY INTRODUCTION A major component of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 was to emphasize that receipt of public benefits for the poor should be temporary. The act ended the federal entitlement program for low-income families and children (Aid to Families with Dependent Children, AFDC) with a program financed by state-administered block grants, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Before PRWORA and the waiver programs of the late 1980s and 1990s (state experiments with different program rules), families were entitled to receive benefits as long as they met eligibility requirements; the new law requires recipients to work or participate in work-related activities, and recipients are subject to a life-time limit of 60 cumulative months of benefit receipt. 1 With this increased effort to move recipients off of welfare (and an unprecedented decrease in the welfare caseload), many monitoring and evaluation studies have been devoted to tracking and measuring the outcomes of those families who leave welfare. Many studies of welfare leavers have already been conducted, and several reviews of the leaver studies have also been conducted (Brauner and Loprest, 1999; U.S. General Accounting Office, 1999; National Governors' Association et al., 1998; Parrott, 1998; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1998). The number of welfare leaver studies is growing, too. A fiscal 1998 congressional appropriation was given to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to fund studies to track those who leave welfare. ASPE subsequently awarded grants to 14 states, counties, and county groups to track those who leave welfare, using primarily administrative data and survey data.2 This same appropriation requested that ASPE fund a National Academy of Sciences panel to, among other things, provide guidance on the ASPE research plan for tracking former welfare recipients. ASPE asked the Committee on National Statistics at the National Research Council to convene the Panel on Data and Methods for Measuring the Effects of Changes in Social Welfare Programs. The panel is broadly charged to review data needs and methods for evaluating the outcomes of changes in social welfare programs on families and individuals. The panel is specifically charged to assist the department in (1) identifying how best to measure and track program eligibility, participation, child well-being and other outcomes, (2) evaluating data, research designs, and methodologies for the study of welfare reform outcomes and (3) identifying needed areas and topics 1   A summary of the PRWORA legislation can be found in U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (1998), and a summary of state rules for TANF can be found in Gallagher et al. (1998). 2   For a summary of the 14 studies, see National Research Council (1999).