The influence of employment related supports and services on successful TANF exits: A sequential explanatory mixed methods analysis

Date of Completion

January 2008


Social Work|Sociology, Public and Social Welfare




In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) replaced the United States' largest cash assistance program, Aid to Families for Dependent Children (AFDC), with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). This policy change represents a paradigm shift in which TANF families are not entitled to welfare, benefits are time-limited, and most recipients are required to work. However, the types of jobs available for women transitioning from TANF may not provide a route out of poverty. ^ This research identified factors that affect successful exits from TANF (income equal to or greater than 100% of the poverty threshold) and explored how TANF leavers have faired financially and emotionally since leaving welfare for employment. A two-phase, explanatory mixed methods design was utilized to examine how employment related supports affect successful TANF exits. Data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) was used in logistic and multivariate models to test the association between employment, supports, and successful TANF exits. Data collected from interviews with 11 TANF leavers was used to explore the role of the worker in successful TANF exits and to contextualize the results of the quantitative analyses. ^ Results indicated that a number of factors such as length of time in employment, the receipt of child support and employer provided health insurance were significant predictors of successful TANF exits. However, periods of disrupted employment were significantly associated with post-welfare poverty. Finally, the qualitative data indicated that the relationship with the welfare worker played an important but varying role for study participants. ^ Many TANF leavers may not be earning an income sufficient to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Even those with an income that places them above the poverty threshold may have difficultly providing basic necessities for their families, as the current measure of poverty is an insufficient measure of need. Access to supports and services to augment income and support employment are crucial to the economic stability of TANF leavers. ^