Cash Assistance in Illinois Has Limited Impact on Employment Outcomes

What We Did

We used Chapin Hall’s Integrated Database on Children and Family Services in Illinois (IDB) to trace five cohorts of cash assistance cases that left Illinois’s program between 1995 and 1999 and established their subsequent earnings and employment histories. Specifically, we used individual-level longitudinal service records that were constructed from AFDC/TANF receipt data from the Illinois Department of Human Services Client Database. In order to track employment and earnings patterns of the population, we used information on quarterly wages of all Illinois employees reported by employers to the Department of Employment Security for unemployment insurance (UI) purposes. By linking these two datasets at the individual level, we were able to describe the changes in cash assistance status and employment changes of the population over time.

What We Found

  • More recipients left the cash assistance program having established earnings from employment during this period of focus, and did so after having spent less time receiving cash assistance
  • Those who left the program with a job were more than twice as likely to be employed one year later than those who left without employment, and reported higher earnings; that said, a significant portion of those who leave cash assistance lost employment over time
  • The majority of those who left the program without a job may be those for whom employment is most difficult
  • While policy changes are attributable to the shortened lengths of time spent receiving cash assistance, the improvements in employment outcomes after leaving the program were more likely due to the strong economy at the time

What It Means

  • These findings continue the story of Illinois cash assistance recipients (detailed in Outcomes for the income maintenance caseload during receipt) to show that, while policy changes have incentivized the transition from welfare to work, they have had a limited impact on employment outcomes
  • Those who are employed after leaving the cash assistance program may still find themselves in low-wage jobs
    Recommended Citation
    Lee, B. J., Goerge, R. M., & Dilts, J. (2001). Outcomes for the income maintenance caseload after receipt: Caseload dynamics, employment and earnings in Illinois, 1995-1999. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago.
Outcomes for the income maintenance caseload after receipt