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Future Evaluations

The major forthcoming evaluations will assess the new welfare regime created by the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program, which replaced AFDC in 1996. Although states can continue to operate their welfare programs as they have in the past, most observers expect to see fundamental changes. Already, a number of large-scale evaluations have been launched.

National or Multi-State Evaluations

The passage of TANF almost immediately gave rise to research studies proposing to track changes in state welfare systems and estimate their effects on both state welfare agencies and the poor. The studies will employ various sources of data, including existing national surveys, newly established ones, and administrative data sets.

The Census Bureau Survey, mandated by the new federal welfare law, is likely to be the most significant source of national data on welfare reform. The law includes $10 million a year for the Bureau to expand its data collection through the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP).1 This new "Survey of Program Dynamics" will be built on the data collected in the 1992 and 1993 SIPP panels, thus extending data collection for these cohorts through 2001. This will provide ten years of longitudinal data on income, patterns of welfare receipt, and the condition of children. Because the panels began three or four years before the enactment of the welfare reform bill, researchers will be able to assess the impact of the bill by comparing this extensive baseline data with data collected after the bill takes effect.

The U.S. General Accounting Office has embarked on a multi-year project to monitor welfare reform, which will include a 50-state overview and an in-depth review of six states. The six-state review will examine how these states structure their new welfare programs, the challenges they encounter, and the outcomes they achieve. The 50-state component will be based on existing data sources and interviews of state officials and others in two counties within each of the six case-study states.

The Urban Institute, in collaboration with Child Trends, Inc., and Westat, Inc., is conducting a multi-faceted study, "Assessing the New Federalism". This $50 million effort will monitor and assess how the devolution2 of federal responsibility for social welfare programs is being handled by states. It will provide information on the policies, administration, and funding of social programs in all 50 states, with a targeted effort aimed at 13 states. It will include interviews with program managers to determine how they are implementing the new law and surveys of over 50,000 people to collect detailed information about their economic and social circumstances. One of the objectives of the study is to determine the effects of devolution on the well-being of children and families.

The Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research (also called the Poverty Center) has formed a national advisory panel "to pursue the development of research-ready data from administrative sources to be used for poverty research". It is reviewing administrative data to examine ways of improving its quality so that it can be used for research. In the future, the Poverty Center plans to make grants in support of such research.

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government of the State University of New York (Albany) has undertaken A Study of State Capacity that will examine the implementation of the new welfare law in order to gauge the capacity of state governments to operate complex social programs. Examining the political, administrative, and programmatic changes in states, it seeks to determine the strengths and weaknesses in their implementation of the law and to identify solutions to the problems encountered. The study will be based on an in-depth review of implementation in seven to ten states, supplemented by a 50-state survey.

Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), Inc., will use existing state administrative data and SIPP data to create a microsimulation model capable of projecting the new welfare law s impact on costs, caseloads, distributional effects, and other outcomes.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its various organizational units, will fund evaluations on selected subjects, including the Child Care Research Partnership projects, the National Longitudinal Study of Children and Families in the Child Welfare System, the "Welfare Reform Studies and Analyses" project, and several collaborations on topics such as employment stability and immigration.

We also expect researchers to conduct a series of smaller studies based on various large, longitudinal surveys. In addition to the Census Bureau's newly expanded SIPP survey, they will most likely use the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID), begun in 1968, and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), begun in 1979. Both provide information on annual and monthly income and program participation, and are an important source of data about intergenerational welfare use.

In the past, many important welfare studies have used these surveys. For example, Bane and Ellwood used the PSID to describe the patterns of welfare receipt, including length of time on welfare and the reasons for welfare entry and exit. Their research has enriched our understanding of the heterogeneity of the welfare population and aided in the formulation of public policies designed to reduce welfare dependency.3 Building on their work, Pavetti used the NLSY to analyze time on welfare and the implications for time-limited welfare.4 The new welfare reforms are sure to increase the use of these databases.

Community- and Neighborhood-Based Evaluations

Several studies are planned to examine the effects of welfare reform at the community or neighborhood level. Unlike broad national or state studies, these studies focus on the law's impact on urban areas, where implementation is likely to pose the greatest challenges and impacts are likely to be the most problematic.

Johns Hopkins University will conduct a "Multi-City Study of the Effects of Welfare Reform on Children", under the leadership of Lindsey Chase-Lansdale, Linda Burton, Andrew Cherlin, Robert Moffitt, and William J. Wilson. It will examine the impact of welfare reform on children in Baltimore, Boston, and Chicago communities. Surveys and administrative data will be used to collect information on families at several points in time, creating a longitudinal database. In addition, children may be tested to provide a fuller assessment of their well-being. These data will be supplemented with ethnographic community studies.

The Manpower Demonstration and Research Corporation (MDRC) will conduct the Devolution and Urban Change Project to assess the impact of devolution on families living in economically depressed neighborhoods in four to six large cities. The study will examine changes in the "safety net" in the cities studied and attempt to link agency practices to outcomes for low-income families. The study will use surveys, ethnographic research, administrative records, and other data sources.

Princeton University, through its Office of Population Research, plans to conduct the "Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Project". A birth cohort study of unwed parents and their children, the project s principal investigators will be Sara McLanahan, Irwin Garfinkel, and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. The study will use a longitudinal design to follow, from birth to age four, a new birth cohort of children born to unwed mothers in certain large metropolitan areas. It will provide information on the determinants of child well-being in these families; the factors affecting the involvement of unwed fathers; and the role of extended families, community services, and government policies on these families.

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