State Use of Federal TANF Hardship Exemptions: Why Does Uptake Vary Across States and Over Time?
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
The proposed paper provides an overview of states’ use of the TANF hardship exemption pre- and post-implementation of the Deficit Reduction Act and discusses hypothesized reasons behind the variations in uptake. This project examines hardship exemption rates in the 50 U.S. states and D.C. from fiscal year 2002 to 2015, yielding 714 state-year observations. We gathered data from three sources: DHHS Administration of Children and Families caseload data, the Urban Institute’s Welfare Rules Database, and the University of Kentucky Center on Poverty Research. Graphs and descriptive statistics are used to present trends over time and across states, followed by discussion of what was learned from linear regression models using hardship exemption rates as the dependent variable.
Findings reveal statistically significant relationships between hardship exemption rates and key independent variables measuring state economic circumstances and implementation decisions. For example, regarding implementation strategies, many states have devised extensive categories and guidance on granting exemptions. Some states instruct caseworkers to follow these rules closely while others allow caseworkers to make decisions on a case by case basis, and results suggest a connection between these practices and use of the federal exemptions.