Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in the Advent of Welfare Reform: How Household Composition Impacts Participation in Public Assistance Programs
Diaz, Sylvia Ann
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Abstract of Dissertation Temporary Assistance to Needy Families in the Advent of Welfare Reform: How Household Composition Impacts Participation in Public Assistance Programs By Sylvia Ann Diaz Doctor of Philosophy in Social Welfare Stony Brook University 2011 This study explores the impact of mutual support networks on public assistance recipients by examining time series data from a three-wave panel study of women receiving TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). The data was collected using the United States Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation or SIPP, which collects both cross-sectional and longitudinal data on income amount and sources, labor force information, program participation, eligibility data, and general demographic characteristics. The data examined for this study covers a twelve-year period from the beginning of 1996 through 2007. While the demographic data collected highlights a number of variables for this group, all those surveyed are identified as the head of household for the duration of the panels. The study specifically examines how having an additional adult join the household of the public assistance recipient affects the head of household's ability to stop receiving benefits. The study concludes that having an additional adult join the household of a female single parent on public assistance correlates significantly with the outcome variable of leaving public assistance within one year. This finding has significant policy implications for social welfare programs in the United States specifically because TANF is a time limited economic support program. Therefore, programs and policies that promote cohabitation may serve to expedite an exodus from the public assistance rolls. As a backdrop to this study, the data was collected during the most recent period of significant welfare reform in the United States as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity and Reconciliation Act went into effect in 1996, with many families reaching their newly imposed sixty-month time limit for receiving benefits by 2001. I use the history of welfare reform as a rationale for this study as historically, welfare policies have sought to promote individualism under the guise of self-sufficiency largely ignoring the effective nature of supportive social networks and the mutual aid systems that naturally develop in communities.