Leaving Welfare: Employment and Well-Being of Families That Left Welfare in the Post-Entitlement Era

Leaving Welfare: Employment and Well-Being of Families That Left Welfare in the Post-Entitlement Era

Leaving Welfare: Employment and Well-Being of Families That Left Welfare in the Post-Entitlement Era

Leaving Welfare: Employment and Well-Being of Families That Left Welfare in the Post-Entitlement Era

Synopsis

Gregory Acs is a senior research associate in The Urban Institute's Income and Benefits Policy Center

Pamela Loprest is a labor economist and senior research associate at the Urban Institute

Excerpt

Income is a key indicator of economic well-being. Total family income measures the resources available to meet family needs. Leavers' earnings are a large part of income, but earnings of other family members, government benefits, and additional funds such as child support also play important roles. Further, comparing leavers' family income with the federal poverty level provides context for interpreting their relative well-being.

In addition to income, family well-being can be understood through former recipients' experiences of material hardships, such as problems with food, housing, and medical care. Many leaver studies collect information on these factors. Although there is no single benchmark comparison for these measures of hardship, examining former recipients' experiences of hardship before and after leaving welfare provides information on changes in well-being after exit.

In this chapter, we examine leaver families' income levels, income relative to poverty, and sources of income. We then discuss their experiences of food-related problems, housing problems, and lack of access to medical care. Given the emphasis in welfare reform discussions on success through work, we also discuss the relative well-being of working former recipient families compared with families where the leaver is not working. Along with these objective indicators, we also report former recipients' answers to direct questions of whether they are better off since leaving welfare.

FAMILY INCOME AND POVERTY

Family income is a powerful indicator of the well-being of welfare leavers. Not all leaver studies fully examine income because it is difficult to measure accurately. Most information on income comes from survey data, but to obtain accurate family income information, a survey must devote a great deal of time asking about each possible source of income and obtaining amounts. Even the leaver studies that do ask . . .

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