Welfare programs exist to provide a minimal level of support for children. Among the changes brought about by welfare reform was the addition of a complementary goal of “reducing dependency,” i.e., cutting the caseload. The relative importance of these two goals—providing a minimal level of support to poor children and reducing dependency—is a matter of considerable debate, to which we return at the end of this section.
Regardless of the relative weight attached to these goals, the level and composition of the caseload are key indicators of outcomes under CalWORKs, and they provide important insights into the effects of CalWORKs' policies and programs. Beyond being a key measure of dependency, the size and composition of the caseload drive total aid payments and the staffing levels needed to administer the grant and provide WTW services.
This section describes trends in the caseload. We first describe the overall trends (in the aggregate) and then disaggregate them for several different subgroups. The path of California's caseload decline is then compared with that in other states. The section concludes with a preliminary discussion of the evidence on the causes of the trends. We examine the factors identified in the model in Section 1 in explaining the caseload results in California and in explaining those results in relation to the rest of the nation.1
The basic story is straightforward and therefore central to the evolution of the CalWORKs program. Since a peak in March of 1995, the caseload has fallen approximately 1 percent per month; as of late 2000, it had fallen to a level nearly half its peak. This decline is unprecedented and broad-based. In addition, when we adjust the caseload decline to account for changes in population, we find that the decline in the per-capita caseload was even larger than the gross caseload decline, and when we account for composition shifts in the population, the composition-adjusted decline is larger still.____________________