Welfare Reform and Children: A Synthesis of Impacts in Five States: The Project on State-Level Child Outcomes

Publication Date: March 15, 2004


The Project on State-Level Child Outcomes is a collaboration among researchers, federal agencies, foundations, and representatives from state welfare offices to examine child and family well-being in the context of welfare reform. The project originated in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the leadership of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). In an initial phase of the project, HHS awarded one-year planning grants to 12 states to augment their ongoing experimental evaluations of welfare waiver policies with studies of how welfare reform affects children. During the fall of 1996 and the spring of 1997, state and federal representatives, researchers from the firms conducting the state evaluations of adult outcomes (MDRC, Mathematica Policy Research, and Abt Associates), researchers from Child Trends, and members of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Family and Child Well-being Research Network, met to establish common terminology for discussing child outcomes, develop a conceptual model for how welfare policies affect child well-being, and choose the factors to be assessed in the evaluations.

Five of the initial 12 states (Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota) were then funded for a second phase of the project, in the fall of 1997, to carry out studies of child outcomes as part of their waiver evaluations. The state representatives and research teams continued to work together jointly to develop hypotheses about the impact of state waiver policies on child and family outcomes, finalize the most important outcomes to measure in their surveys, and develop surveys and procedures for data collection that were as similar as possible across the states.

This report is a synthesis of the findings from the five state evaluations. It was compiled by researchers from Abt Associates, Child Trends, MDRC, and Mathematica Policy Research. Researchers from Child Trends coordinated the preparation and writing of this synthesis.

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