Variations in Maternal and Child Wellbeing by TANF Participation

Nancy E. Reichman, Julien O. Teitler, Irwin Garfinkel, and Sandra Garcia

January 2004

"This study uses baseline and one year follow-up data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study to estimate the TANF participation rate among financially-eligible mothers and to compare their wellbeing and that of their one year old children across the following four groups: (1) Mothers who were receiving TANF at the time of the follow-up interview. (2) Those who received TANF during the past year but no longer received it at the time of the follow-up interview, possibly because they have may have been sanctioned or hit term limits. (3) Those who received TANF during the past year but no longer received it, were not sanctioned, and could not have hit term limits. (4) Those who did not receive TANF for other reasons. The researchers look at a variety of outcomes including material hardship, poor physical health, and poor mental health of mothers, and poor general health status and hospitalization of their children. The researchers find that 45% of eligible mothers do not participate in TANF, that all of the eligible groups have high levels of hardship, and that involuntary leavers are markedly worse off at one year than any other group in terms of extreme material hardship and poor mental health. These results can help us understand the extent to which recent declines in welfare rolls may have been achieved at the expense of the health and wellbeing of financially eligible women and their children."

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