Understanding the Dynamics of Disconnection from Employment and Assistance, 2011-2014

Project Overview

Since the creation of TANF in 1996, there has been concern about TANF recipients who leave TANF without finding work, as well as low-income individuals who may be eligible for TANF but are neither receiving TANF nor working. Low-income individuals and families who are not employed or receiving public assistance are often referred to as “disconnected.”  According to recent estimates, 20 to 25 percent of low-income single mothers are disconnected from work and TANF for some period of time over the course of a year.

In recent years, HHS has invested in better understanding the dynamics, characteristics and circumstances of disconnected families. These efforts include a research brief on disconnected families and TANF, grants to the National and Regional Poverty Centers to fund research on local disconnected populations and an analysis of the dynamics and characteristics of low-income single mothers disconnected from work and public assistance. This research has sought to address questions such as the size of the disconnected population, the characteristics of disconnected families, the extent of economic hardship faced by disconnected families and dynamics of disconnection.

The Understanding the Dynamics of Disconnection from Employment and Assistance project is intended to lay the groundwork for the next stage of research on disconnection. Launched in 2011 and conducted by the Urban Institute, the project began by convening a meeting of experts who discussed existing research on disconnection and offered input on the most important knowledge gaps and areas for future research. The next phase of the project will be an exploratory qualitative study of disconnected individuals and their circumstances. Interviews will be conducted in 2013 and a final report is expected in early 2014. It is hoped that the project will shed new light on this hard to reach population and offer new hypotheses for further study.

The point of contact is Emily Schmitt.

  • Understanding the Dynamics of Disconnection From Employment and Assistance

    Published: June 2, 2014

    The study, Understanding the Dynamics of Disconnection from Employment and Assistance, used interview data from a sample of 51 unmarried mothers from Southeast Michigan and Los Angeles, California, to learn more about their experiences related to work, benefit receipt, and material hardship, their overall well-being, and the economic coping strategies and sources of support they use to manage. This report is based on these qualitative interviews. Analysis of the interview data showed some...

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