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Watching the Clock Tick: Factors Associated with TANF Accumulation.

May 2004

Kristin S. Seefeldt, Research Investigator, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Sean M. Orzol, Research Analyst, Mathematica Policy Research.

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The 1996 welfare reform included provisions making extended welfare stays more difficult, one of the most notable a 60 month lifetime time limit on receipt of benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. We use four waves of data from the Women’s Employment Study to determine which personal characteristics are associated with accumulating months on TANF at low (less than 20 months of receipt), medium (20 to 39 months), or high (40 to 60 months) levels. We find that many of the same factors are associated with being in both the medium and high accumulation groups (relative to the low group). However, demographic variables, such as the presence of a partner and the number of children, seem to matter more in determining whether or not someone will accumulate a relatively “low” as opposed to a “medium” amount of time on TANF. While these factors matter for the high accumulation group, the presence of human capital problems, as well as persistent personal and family challenges, such as child and maternal health problems and domestic violence, all greatly increase the likelihood of being in the high group and accumulating many months toward the 60 month time limit.
Key words: welfare receipt, welfare reform, time limits

Social Welfare Programs and Policies, Welfare Reform and the Administration of Welfare Programs