This paper examines the extent to which persons in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) have been able to leave the TANF program. The analysis is based on the Louisiana Welfare Survey which is a panel study of 1,000 persons (500 in New Orleans and 500 in two labor market areas in northeastern Louisiana) who in 1998 and 1999 had been on welfare. The original respondents have been reinterviewed annually, with the fifth and final wave currently (May 2002) in the field. The findings reported in this paper are based on the first three waves of the panel survey, 1998- 2000. The findings show that by 2000 more than half of the respondents had left TANF, mostly because of employment. Well over one-half of all TANF leavers reported to be working in 2000. Although most respondents that had left TANF reported being better off economically, the work these persons could find consisted mostly of low-status low-pay jobs in service industries. As a result, TANF recipients as well as TANF leavers faced a good many economic hardships, such as not having enough to eat, having phone and utilities disconnected, and inability to obtain medical and dental services. The comparison of metro and nonrnetro areas showed that TANF recipients in nonmetro areas were less likely to leave the TANF program for work, had lower human capital, and tended to face more economic hardships than their metro counterparts. The picture that emerges from these findings shows that the economic situation of TANF leavers is fragile and tenuous, and that it is premature to consider the welfare reform legislation of 1996 a success.

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