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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: Pavetti, LaDonna; Derr, Michelle K.; Kirby, Gretchen; Wood, Robert G.; Clark, Melissa A.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2004

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once focused on the accurate delivery of cash benefits now focuses on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. Part of this shift translates into a dramatic increase in the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements — have become central features of most states' efforts to promote self-sufficiency through their TANF programs. A primary goal of work-oriented sanctions is to encourage TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so. A secondary goal is to encourage greater reporting of earnings, especially among families who work...

    The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) made unprecedented changes to the welfare system in the United States, eliminating the 60-year-old Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replacing it with a block grant to states to create the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. A system that once focused on the accurate delivery of cash benefits now focuses on encouraging families to make the transition from welfare to work. Part of this shift translates into a dramatic increase in the range of circumstances in which families' welfare benefits can be reduced or canceled. In particular, sanctions--financial penalties for noncompliance with program requirements — have become central features of most states' efforts to promote self-sufficiency through their TANF programs. A primary goal of work-oriented sanctions is to encourage TANF recipients who might not be inclined to participate in work activities to do so. A secondary goal is to encourage greater reporting of earnings, especially among families who work in jobs where earnings are not reported through official channels. The logic behind sanctions is that adverse consequences can be used to influence the decisions clients make. Sanctions have long been used to enforce program requirements. However, with the emergence of "full-family" sanctions that eliminate all of a family's cash grant, the imposition of work requirements on a greater share of the TANF caseload and greater emphasis on encouraging TANF recipients to become self-sufficient, they have taken on much greater significance.

    While consensus holds that sanctions have been an important policy change implemented through state welfare reform efforts, they are among the least studied. Additional information on the role sanctions have played in welfare reform can help inform policy discussions regarding whether all states should be required to impose more stringent sanctions and help program administrators identify strategies for using sanctions to promote greater compliance with program requirements. This report presents findings from a study of the use of sanctions in two local welfare offices in each of three states — Illinois, New Jersey, and South Carolina. In this chapter, we provide a brief context for the study, outline the study design, and describe the study states. Chapter II presents our findings on how the study sites implemented sanctions. Chapter III describes our findings on how often sanctions are used, how the characteristics of sanctioned and nonsanctioned families compare, and how sanctioned families fare over time. Finally, Chapter IV summarizes our findings and identifies important unanswered research questions. (author abstract)

  • 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: Wissel, Sarah; Borradaile, Kelley
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2016

    Many programs attempting to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults use financial incentives or sanctions to motivate participants to obtain and/or retain a job. This brief describes the employment and earnings impacts of 12 interventions, identified by the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review, that used financial incentives or sanctions as a primary strategy. It also highlights four promising interventions and their impacts in more detail. (author abstract)

    Many programs attempting to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults use financial incentives or sanctions to motivate participants to obtain and/or retain a job. This brief describes the employment and earnings impacts of 12 interventions, identified by the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review, that used financial incentives or sanctions as a primary strategy. It also highlights four promising interventions and their impacts in more detail. (author abstract)

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