Publication Date: February 2001
Publisher: Center for Law and Social Policy
Author(s): Julie Strawn; Mark Greenberg; Steve Savner
Research Area: Labor; Social conditions
Coverage: United States
Initial TANF implementation in most states solidified a set of Work First Policies which focused on job search for applicants and recipients, increased the use of unpaid work experience, and decreased access to education and training. A review of the experience since 1996 suggests both the strengths and limits of this approach.
Since 1996, the nation has seen an unprecedented decline in welfare caseloads, much of which has been attributable to employment. However, most of the employment has been in low-wage jobs and welfare leavers appear to experience frequent job losses and limited upward mobility. Research finding since 1996 support the premise that TANF programs can do much more to address job quality while maintaining a strong focus on rapid employment entry, through a range of approaches including improved job matching, better use of labor market information, closer links to employers, and increased access to skill-building activities.
We conclude with a set of recommended changes for TANF reauthorization that would make improved labor market outcomes for low-income parents an explicit purpose of the Act and provide for broad state flexibility and meaningful accountability for achieving these improvements.