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What Happens to Families When They Leave Welfare?

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Abstract:

More than 1.4 million people left California's welfare rolls between August 1996 and September 2001. Although this dramatic decline in the caseload in the early years following welfare reform was seen by some as heralding the triumph of the new rules, others saw it as an alarm bell regarding the well-being of former welfare recipients. This report presents the findings of telephone surveys conducted in the late 1990s among one-parent and two parent families approximately 6 months and 12 months after they left welfare. The report presents snapshots of how well these families are doing during each of these periods, describing the families' economic security, use of public assistance, and difficulties encountered in maintaining employment and coping with adverse conditions. In addition to comparing circumstances over time, the report also identifies factors that might predict a return to welfare and other poor outcomes for families.