Panel: Longitudinal Evidence on the Influence of Welfare Policy and Regional Variation on Single Mothers' Wellbeing
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Thursday, November 6, 2014: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
Santa Ana (Convention Center)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Panel Organizers:  Jiyoon Kim, University of Michigan
Panel Chairs:  Andrea Hetling, Rutgers University - New Brunswick
Discussants:  Chris M. Herbst, Arizona State University

The U.S. welfare policy took a significant turn in 1996, when the welfare reform was initiated. It ended the longstanding unconditional cash assistance program and installed a new time limited and work-focused social assistance program –– Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF, also called “workfare”, has aimed to promote transition from welfare to work and self-dependence. Under TANF, recipients are subject to work requirement and a life time limit on welfare receipt. States are given leeway to impose additional restrictions beyond the federal requirements, and this has introduced a great deal of heterogeneity in welfare policies across states. The three papers in this panel examine the effect of cross-state variation in TANF policies and regional characteristics on single mother’s socioeconomic outcomes. Also, the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data are used in all three papers, which contain detailed longitudinal information on welfare program participation, demographic and socioeconomic status. Furthermore, each paper uses unique methods to study various outcomes ranging from movement in and out of disconnection, labor force participation, to long-term self-sufficiency. The first paper uses restricted-use, confidential, micro level data and analyzes how regional socioeconomic conditions and state policies affect movements into and out of economic disconnection of low-income single mothers, where economic disconnection is defined as receiving no cash income from welfare or work. Findings from sets of discrete survival analyses identify regional characteristics with positive or negative impacts on the resiliency of low-income single mothers, along with statistically significant personal and state policy variables. The second paper tracks month-to-month changes in women’s labor force participation before and after a birth using an event study specification. Specifically, it compares labor force participation trend for women who give birth in states with strict work requirement policies to that for women in lenient states. Results indicate that mothers in states with stringent policies are likely to work more, and effects are only present for single mothers. The third paper utilizes random effect models to understand how the difference in state policies with respect to time limit and sanction requirements affects low-educated single mothers’ long-term self-sufficiency, characterized by work participation, earning, and dependency on welfare. Findings reveal that mothers in stringent states do not have higher income or lower levels of welfare use over time. Though single mothers in stringent states register a higher level of labor force participation, their counterparts in lenient states reported higher employment growth. All the studies in this panel make a significant contribution by addressing the impact of TANF policies on disadvantaged single mothers with multilevel and longitudinal modeling. Overcoming limited cross-section measures of individual outcomes in existing literature, the longitudinal approaches adopted in each paper fill an enormous gap in understanding dynamic effects of state TANF policies on individual outcomes.
See more of: Poverty and Income Policy
See more of: Panel