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ERIC Number: ED474740
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2003-Feb
Pages: 58
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: N/A
Families Coping without Earnings or Government Cash Assistance. Assessing the New Federalism: An Urban Institute Program to Assess Changing Social Policies. Occasional Paper.
Zedlewski, Sheila R.; Nelson, Sandi; Edin, Kathryn; Koball, Heather; Pomper, Kate; Roberts, Tracy
This study sought to determine why some families live outside the government cash income support system despite extreme poverty. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 95 extremely poor families (cash income below 50 percent of the federal poverty level living without employment income or government cash assistance). The interview sample was drawn from a set of 275 families identified during the 2002 National Survey of America's Families. Among respondents, 64 percent were single parents living alone, and 94 percent were mothers living with their children. The racial and ethnic composition of the sample was fairly balanced across Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics. During the interviews, participants discussed why they were not working or receiving welfare and how they managed without these sources of income. Key findings are as follows: (1) the three top reasons cited for lack of work were poor health, job scarcity, and a desire to stay home to care for children; (2) approximately 4 in 10 parent did not participate in TANF because of program hassles, sanctions, and time limits, and others gave personal reasons for not participating such as pride or a preference for child support in lieu of cash benefits; (3) these families coped by combining in-kind government support (e.g., food stamps), child support, help from family or friends, "side jobs," and charity; (4) families often expressed appreciation for in-kind government supports, but a significant share reported difficulties retaining food stamp certification; (5) remarkably, most respondents expressed positive attitudes about their ability to make ends meet and about their children's well-being. Findings confirm that jobs and a strong safety net are essential for helping very poor families manage. Findings also highlight some weaknesses in basic needs and income support programs that merit state policymakers' immediate attention. Improved access to food stamps and health care, including a better understanding of how these programs work, would boost low-income families' well-being and employment prospects. A less threatening child support system and welfare programs that prevent families from leaving before they are self-sufficient would help to establish a more stable floor of income for families with children. (The study methodology is appended. Contains 10 references.) (HTH)
Urban Institute, 2100 M Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 202-833-7200; Fax: 202-429-0687; e-mail:; Web site: For full text:
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Los Altos, CA.; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, New Brunswick, NJ.; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL.; Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore, MD.; Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI.; Ford Foundation, New York, NY.; Smith Richardson Foundation, Inc., Greensboro, NC.
Authoring Institution: Urban Inst., Washington, DC.
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families