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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: Kauff, Jacqueline; Derr, Michelle K. ; Pavetti, LaDonna; Martin, Emily S.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2007

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provided a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  In doing so, it required states to engage certain minimum percentages of their TANF caseloads—50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families—in specified work and work-related activities for a specified number of hours per week.  Sanctions, or financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements, have long been perceived as a major tool for encouraging TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so.  The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences—such as a reduction in the TANF cash grant (a partial sanction) or gradual or immediate termination of the TANF grant (a full-family sanction)—can help influence the participation decisions that welfare recipients make.

    In reauthorizing the TANF program, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) changed the way the work participation rates are calculated and thereby...

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) provided a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.  In doing so, it required states to engage certain minimum percentages of their TANF caseloads—50 percent of all families and 90 percent of two-parent families—in specified work and work-related activities for a specified number of hours per week.  Sanctions, or financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements, have long been perceived as a major tool for encouraging TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so.  The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences—such as a reduction in the TANF cash grant (a partial sanction) or gradual or immediate termination of the TANF grant (a full-family sanction)—can help influence the participation decisions that welfare recipients make.

    In reauthorizing the TANF program, the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA) changed the way the work participation rates are calculated and thereby effectively increased the rates required of states.  Work participation rates are calculated by dividing a numerator consisting of “participants”—families engaged in federally acceptable work activities for the requisite hours per week—by a denominator that is a count of “total families.”  Largely because states received credits in their participation rates for caseload reductions that occurred after 1995 and because the count of “total families” included only certain TANF recipients, the real rates that states had to meet prior to the DRA were substantially below 50 and 90 percent.  As of fiscal year 2007, states will receive credits in their participation rates for caseload reductions that occur after 2005 and the count of “total families” will include TANF recipients as well as families receiving assistance through separate state programs that count toward maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements.  Because of these changes, states now face the challenge of achieving participation rates that are considerably higher and close to the 50 and 90 percent standards set in the law.  As states consider their options for meeting the higher work participation rates, they are likely to consider how they might redefine their TANF and separate state programs and make better use of sanction policies and procedures to encourage higher levels of participation in program activities. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Polit, Denise F.; Nelson, Laura; Richburg-Hayes, Lashawn; Seith, David; Rich, Sarah
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2005

    The 1996 national welfare reform law imposed a five-year time limit on federally funded cash assistance, established stricter work requirements, and provided greater flexibility for states in designing and managing programs. This report — the last in a series from MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change — describes how welfare reform unfolded in Los Angeles County (particularly between 1998 and 2001) and compares welfare reform experiences and outcomes there with those in the other three Urban Change sites: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Miami- Dade County, and Philadelphia.

    After presenting a digest of the study’s findings, this summary report offers background on the Urban Change study in Los Angeles, depicts the county’s demographic and economic environment, describes the implementation of welfare reform, explains the effects of reform on welfare receipt and employment and on the lives of welfare recipients, describes what happened in Los Angeles neighborhoods during welfare reform, and concludes with policy implications drawn from conclusions from all four Urban...

    The 1996 national welfare reform law imposed a five-year time limit on federally funded cash assistance, established stricter work requirements, and provided greater flexibility for states in designing and managing programs. This report — the last in a series from MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change — describes how welfare reform unfolded in Los Angeles County (particularly between 1998 and 2001) and compares welfare reform experiences and outcomes there with those in the other three Urban Change sites: Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), Miami- Dade County, and Philadelphia.

    After presenting a digest of the study’s findings, this summary report offers background on the Urban Change study in Los Angeles, depicts the county’s demographic and economic environment, describes the implementation of welfare reform, explains the effects of reform on welfare receipt and employment and on the lives of welfare recipients, describes what happened in Los Angeles neighborhoods during welfare reform, and concludes with policy implications drawn from conclusions from all four Urban Change sites. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Bloom, Dan; Anderson, Jacquelyn; Wavelet, Melissa; Gardiner, Karen N.; Fishman, Michael E.
    Reference Type:
    Year: 2002

    The welfare reforms of the 1990s dramatically increased the need for effective strategies to help low-income parents work more steadily and advance in the labor market; long-term reliance on public assistance is no longer an option for most families. Yet, while a great deal is known about how to help welfare recipients prepare for and find jobs, there is little hard evidence about what works to promote employment retention and advancement. The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) evaluation is the most comprehensive attempt thus far to understand which program models are most effective in promoting stable employment and career progression for welfare recipients and other low-income workers. Conceived and sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the ERA project includes up to 15 random assignment experiments across the country. The evaluation is being conducted under contract to ACF by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. MDRC, with...

    The welfare reforms of the 1990s dramatically increased the need for effective strategies to help low-income parents work more steadily and advance in the labor market; long-term reliance on public assistance is no longer an option for most families. Yet, while a great deal is known about how to help welfare recipients prepare for and find jobs, there is little hard evidence about what works to promote employment retention and advancement. The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) evaluation is the most comprehensive attempt thus far to understand which program models are most effective in promoting stable employment and career progression for welfare recipients and other low-income workers. Conceived and sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the ERA project includes up to 15 random assignment experiments across the country. The evaluation is being conducted under contract to ACF by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization. MDRC, with assistance from the Lewin Group, is also providing technical assistance to help make the ERA programs as strong as possible. This first report on the ERA evaluation, which began in late 1999, describes the emerging ERA programs and identifies some early lessons on the design and implementation of relatively large-scale retention and advancement programs. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Quint, Janet; Edin, Kathryn; Buck, Maria L.; Fink, Barbara; Padilla, Yolanda C.; Simmons-Hewitt, Olis; Valmont, Mary Eustace; Bowie, Stan L.; Johnson, Earl S.; Korbin, Jill E.; Stepick, Carol Dutton; Stepick, Alex; Valenzuela, Abel
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1999

    The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 revolutionized welfare policy. Ending Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) — the 60-year-old federal cash welfare program for poor families — the act granted unprecedented authority and responsibility for public assistance policies and programs to the states, established a new form of aid known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides funds to the states via block grants, and placed a five-year lifetime limit on federally assisted cash benefits for most families. States were permitted to exempt from the federal time limit no more than 20 percent of their average monthly caseloads and also faced increasingly stringent requirements to place more welfare recipients into jobs or work preparation activities. In the aftermath of PRWORA, states have further “devolved” much of the responsibility for welfare to local welfare agencies and other entities.

    Congress enacted PRWORA and President Clinton signed it out of the profound conviction that the existing welfare...

    The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 revolutionized welfare policy. Ending Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) — the 60-year-old federal cash welfare program for poor families — the act granted unprecedented authority and responsibility for public assistance policies and programs to the states, established a new form of aid known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which provides funds to the states via block grants, and placed a five-year lifetime limit on federally assisted cash benefits for most families. States were permitted to exempt from the federal time limit no more than 20 percent of their average monthly caseloads and also faced increasingly stringent requirements to place more welfare recipients into jobs or work preparation activities. In the aftermath of PRWORA, states have further “devolved” much of the responsibility for welfare to local welfare agencies and other entities.

    Congress enacted PRWORA and President Clinton signed it out of the profound conviction that the existing welfare system was a failure, but without much prior research to suggest what the likely effects of the new law’s provisions might be. PRWORA’s proponents expected the changes to spur policy innovation, lead more families to become self-supporting, and encourage marriage while discouraging out-of-wedlock births. The law’s critics predicted dire effects on poor families and the neighborhoods in which they live — more poverty, hardship, homelessness, domestic violence, and crime.

    The fundamental premise underlying the Project on Devolution and Urban Change (Urban Change for short) is that the effects of PRWORA — whether positive, negative, or mixed — will be felt with special intensity by residents of the nation’s big cities, where long-term welfare recipients and other poor people are increasingly concentrated and employment opportunities are often limited. The Urban Change project is a five-year, multicomponent study of PRWORA’s implementation and of its effects on poor families with children, the communities in which they live, and the institutions that assist them. The study is taking place in four of the nation’s largest urban counties — Cuyahoga, Ohio (which includes Cleveland); Los Angeles, California; Miami-Dade, Florida; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These counties (also referred to as the study’s sites) were selected to represent a mix of older Northern industrial cities and younger Sunbelt cities, with different local economies, welfare grant levels, and ethnic mixes. All four counties, however, account for a disproportionate share of the TANF recipients in their respective states.

    The study is being undertaken by MDRC, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that develops and evaluates interventions designed to improve the self-sufficiency and well-being of economically disadvantaged populations, in cooperation with researchers from other institutions at or near the study sites. The project is supported by a consortium of 11 foundations, which are listed at the front of the report.

    This report, the first from the project, centers on case studies of the four sites. These case studies contain information from two of the project’s components: the implementation study, which explores welfare agency policies and practices, and the ethnographic study, which centers on in-depth interviews with welfare families living in poor neighborhoods at the sites. Although the data for this report were collected approximately 10 to 20 months after the passage of PRWORA and the story has continued to unfold since that time, many of the issues and dilemmas identified in the early round of research are ones with which the sites are still grappling. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Doolittle, Fred; Lynn, Suzanne
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 1998

    Parents’ Fair Share (PFS) research on child support enforcement has several goals. First, it seeks to provide insights into the interaction between local child support enforcement systems and noncustodial parents whose children are on welfare. The approach taken in this report is to analyze what happened when the seven sites in the PFS Demonstration sought to identify low-income, unemployed noncustodial parents appropriate for PFS and refer them to the program. The report carries this story up to the point of referral of appropriate noncustodial parents to the program. Later reports in the project will continue the story, examining the implementation of PFS’s enhanced child support enforcement for noncustodial parents referred to the program and estimating program impacts on payment of child support and other key outcomes. (author abstract)

    Parents’ Fair Share (PFS) research on child support enforcement has several goals. First, it seeks to provide insights into the interaction between local child support enforcement systems and noncustodial parents whose children are on welfare. The approach taken in this report is to analyze what happened when the seven sites in the PFS Demonstration sought to identify low-income, unemployed noncustodial parents appropriate for PFS and refer them to the program. The report carries this story up to the point of referral of appropriate noncustodial parents to the program. Later reports in the project will continue the story, examining the implementation of PFS’s enhanced child support enforcement for noncustodial parents referred to the program and estimating program impacts on payment of child support and other key outcomes. (author abstract)

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