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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Scally, Corianne; Batko, Samantha; Popkin, Susan; DuBois, Nicole
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2018

    Recent proposals, including the President’s FY 2018 proposed budget and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s A Better Way plan, propose deep cuts and possible reforms to housing assistance. Currently, only one in five eligible renter households receives federal assistance. Any reductions to funding and the proposed reforms threaten the well-being of millions of households. This report provides an overview of the current landscape of housing assistance, its central role in the safety net, the evidence on contemporary policy proposals, and identifies critical gaps in our knowledge that suggest the need for more investigation prior to policy changes. (Author abstract) 

    Recent proposals, including the President’s FY 2018 proposed budget and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s A Better Way plan, propose deep cuts and possible reforms to housing assistance. Currently, only one in five eligible renter households receives federal assistance. Any reductions to funding and the proposed reforms threaten the well-being of millions of households. This report provides an overview of the current landscape of housing assistance, its central role in the safety net, the evidence on contemporary policy proposals, and identifies critical gaps in our knowledge that suggest the need for more investigation prior to policy changes. (Author abstract) 

  • Individual Author: Woolf, Steven H.; Aron, Laudan
    Reference Type: White Papers
    Year: 2018

    White Americans are dying at higher rates from drugs, alcohol, and suicides. And the sharpest increases are happening in rural counties, often in regions with long-standing social and economic challenges. The reasons behind these increases are unclear and complex. The opioid epidemic plays a role but is just one part of a larger public health crisis. Life expectancy in the US as a whole has fallen for the second year in a row, and the nation’s health relative to other countries has been declining for decades. Some combination of factors in American life must explain why the rise in mortality is greatest among white, middle-aged adults and certain rural communities. Possibilities include the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents’ generation once enjoyed. Also, over the past 30 years, income inequality and other social divides have widened, middle-class incomes have stagnated, and poverty rates have exceeded those of most rich countries.  ...

    White Americans are dying at higher rates from drugs, alcohol, and suicides. And the sharpest increases are happening in rural counties, often in regions with long-standing social and economic challenges. The reasons behind these increases are unclear and complex. The opioid epidemic plays a role but is just one part of a larger public health crisis. Life expectancy in the US as a whole has fallen for the second year in a row, and the nation’s health relative to other countries has been declining for decades. Some combination of factors in American life must explain why the rise in mortality is greatest among white, middle-aged adults and certain rural communities. Possibilities include the collapse of industries and the local economies they supported, greater social isolation, economic hardship, and distress among white workers over losing the security their parents’ generation once enjoyed. Also, over the past 30 years, income inequality and other social divides have widened, middle-class incomes have stagnated, and poverty rates have exceeded those of most rich countries.  Recent legislation and regulations, however, may prolong or intensify the economic burden on the middle class and weaken access to health care and safety net programs. The consequences of these choices are dire—not only more deaths and illness, but also escalating health care costs, a sicker workforce, and a less competitive economy. (Author abstract) 

  • Individual Author: Kendall, Jessica R.
    Reference Type: SSRC Products
    Year: 2018

    Posted by Jessica R. Kendall, Self-Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse Staff

    Core features of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) promoted work and job preparation among Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash recipients. Welfare reform was influenced by a sizeable volume of research on welfare-to-work programs taking place at the time. Since PRWORA’s passage, newer—albeit fewer—studies have assessed more recent welfare-to-work efforts.

    What have these studies found and what have we learned from them?  

    In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a surge of legislatively supported random assignment evaluations to test the effectiveness of mandatory welfare programs...

    Posted by Jessica R. Kendall, Self-Sufficiency Research Clearinghouse Staff

    Core features of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) promoted work and job preparation among Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash recipients. Welfare reform was influenced by a sizeable volume of research on welfare-to-work programs taking place at the time. Since PRWORA’s passage, newer—albeit fewer—studies have assessed more recent welfare-to-work efforts.

    What have these studies found and what have we learned from them?  

    In the 1980s and 1990s, there was a surge of legislatively supported random assignment evaluations to test the effectiveness of mandatory welfare programs that offered employment services, education and training, or both. During this period federal law authorized one of the largest welfare-to-work evaluations to-date, the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS). This multi-year study assessed initiatives in 11 different welfare-to-work programs across the country. Primary strategies evaluated offered pre-employment short-term job assistance and rapid job placement or longer-term skilling building opportunities. All programs studied increased employment and earnings and decreased welfare receipt. But no program made families materially better off—neither increasing income nor reducing poverty.

    Around the same time, many states conducted their own random assignment evaluations under waiver provisions of the federal Social Security Act. A range of program strategies were tested in these studies—from mandatory work requirements to earning supplements and time limits. Each included an impact analysis of program effects and many became the basis for states’ TANF programs. One such study—of Minnesota’s Family Investment Program—evaluated strategies that offered financial incentives, which included allowing participants to keep more of their cash assistance when they went to work compared with other welfare participants. It also included paying child care expenses directly to providers, combined welfare, family general assistance, and food stamps, and required participation in a week-long job skills class, followed by seven weeks of supervised job search and group activities. Compared with the control group, the Family Investment Program’s relatively intensive supports increased employment and earning in the months following program entry and participants more quickly found jobs. The study also found positive impact on child well-being—noting that children exhibited fewer behavioral problems, did better in school, were more likely to be in a child care setting, and were more likely to have continuous health care coverage.

    Overall, earlier welfare-to-work studies showed positive, but small impacts on employment and welfare receipt—common program features that may be related to these results included job search supports, time limits, and financial incentives. 

    Following welfare reform, the federal government continued to fund experimental studies examining approaches to improve the impacts of welfare-to-work programs. Many of these studies showed limited or mixed results. The Employment Retention and Advancement Project (ERA), 1998-2011 evaluated strategies to promote employment retention and advancement among welfare participants and low-wage workers. It assessed 16 approaches in eight states. It found that earning supplements combined with employment services may have positive earnings results, but did not find positive results for programs that combined work and education. The Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation, 2001-2012 assessed the effectiveness of programs designed to enhance employment outcomes for current or former TANF participants and other low-income parents who have demonstrated difficulty entering and sustaining employment. It assessed four sites, each targeting different populations—from TANF recipients to ex-offenders, and Medicaid recipients. The studies had mixed results—subsidized transitional jobs did not show long-term impacts on employment or earnings; one program focused on TANF recipients with disabilities showed some positive earning impacts.

    Today, ongoing studies continue to test what works in welfare-to-work programming. Several focus on career laddering initiatives that seek to move participants into better paying jobs and sustained self-sufficiency. Some assess the intersection and coordination between different, but overlapping human service systems. Still others are testing enhanced case management and supportive interventions to build participant capacity and promote job retention. Few, however, have focused on various sub-populations of TANF participants, including those with specific barriers or children. Few early studies also included implementation analyses to more fully discern how various program features were executed and why. While there continue to be gaps in our understanding of welfare-to-work initiatives, larger policy and research questions have also arisen. Some suggest that a broader focus on TANF evaluation is in order. With only a small portion of today’s TANF funds being used for cash assistance programs—what are the impacts TANF funds have in supporting other programs that serve needy families and children?   

    Learn more about welfare-to-work from the SSRC:

    The SSRC Library contains numerous reports and stakeholder resources about welfare-to-work, including:

    For more resources, check out the SSRC Library and subscribe to SSRC or follow us on Twitter to receive updates about upcoming events, new library materials on self-sufficiency topics of interest to you and more. 

  • Individual Author: Berger, Lawrence M.; Cancian, Maria; Magnuson, Katherine
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2018

    The 2016 presidential election has brought to the fore proposals to fundamentally restructure the U.S. anti-poverty safety net. Even though much of the current debate centers on shrinking or eliminating federal programs, we believe it is necessary and useful to explore alternatives that represent new approaches and significant innovations to existing policy and programs. This double issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences builds on and extends the scholarly conversation on the state of current U.S. anti-poverty policy by highlighting a collection of related innovative and specific policy proposals for the United States. Well before the election, the authors of the articles in this volume were explicitly tasked with proposing substantially new policies solidly grounded in social science evidence that have the potential to transform anti-poverty policy. Assuming the goal to be reducing poverty among the U.S. population, we asked what new ideas should be seriously considered. The authors responded with carefully crafted proposals that tackle poverty...

    The 2016 presidential election has brought to the fore proposals to fundamentally restructure the U.S. anti-poverty safety net. Even though much of the current debate centers on shrinking or eliminating federal programs, we believe it is necessary and useful to explore alternatives that represent new approaches and significant innovations to existing policy and programs. This double issue of RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences builds on and extends the scholarly conversation on the state of current U.S. anti-poverty policy by highlighting a collection of related innovative and specific policy proposals for the United States. Well before the election, the authors of the articles in this volume were explicitly tasked with proposing substantially new policies solidly grounded in social science evidence that have the potential to transform anti-poverty policy. Assuming the goal to be reducing poverty among the U.S. population, we asked what new ideas should be seriously considered. The authors responded with carefully crafted proposals that tackle poverty from a variety of perspectives. Some of these proposals are more of a departure from existing policies than others, some borrow from other countries or revive old ideas, some are narrow in focus and others much broader, but all seek to move anti-poverty efforts into new territory. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Cancian, Maria; Meyer, Daniel R.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2018

    We argue that child support, the central program specifically targeting single-parent families, should increase financial resources for children living with a single parent, with a secondary goal of holding parents responsible for supporting their children. Current child support policy is substantially successful for divorcing families in which the noncustodial parent has at least moderate formal earnings. However, the system does not work well for lower-income families, especially unmarried couples: far too few children regularly receive substantial support and the system is sometimes counterproductive to encouraging parental responsibility. We propose: a public guarantee of a minimum amount of support per child, assurances that no noncustodial parent will be charged beyond their current means, and a broadening of child support services. (Author abstract)

    We argue that child support, the central program specifically targeting single-parent families, should increase financial resources for children living with a single parent, with a secondary goal of holding parents responsible for supporting their children. Current child support policy is substantially successful for divorcing families in which the noncustodial parent has at least moderate formal earnings. However, the system does not work well for lower-income families, especially unmarried couples: far too few children regularly receive substantial support and the system is sometimes counterproductive to encouraging parental responsibility. We propose: a public guarantee of a minimum amount of support per child, assurances that no noncustodial parent will be charged beyond their current means, and a broadening of child support services. (Author abstract)

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