Assessing the Impact of Education, Marriage, and Domestic Violence On TANF Receipt Over-Time for Women with Children
Methods: We used four waves of data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (N=4488) to evaluate mother’s use of TANF after the birth of a child. TANF receipt is measured dichotomously at each time point. Marriage and IPV were measured dichotomously and were allowed to vary over time, while education was measured categorically and was fixed. We also controlled for theoretically important covariates. We used longitudinal hybrid logistic regression to assess the odds of welfare receipt over nine years, allowing us to combine both fixed and random effects into a single model by decomposing the time-varying predictors into within-person and between-person components.
Results: At Wave 1, 25% of mothers were receiving TANF, while 22% experienced IPV, 37% had not completed high school, and 31% were married. Nine years after, 13% were receiving TANF, 11% experienced IPV, 22% had not completed high school, and 38% were married. We found that having a high school diploma substantially decreased the likelihood of TANF receipt compared to not having a high school diploma (OR=.80; CI .66-.98)but no significant effects were found between no diploma and having some college. Bachelor’s degree attainment had a strong protective effect (OR=.34; CI .18-.66). Being married reduced the likelihood of TANF receipt (OR=.16; CI .13-.21), and experiencing IPV increased the likelihood of TANF receipt over time (OR=1.49; CI 1.14-1.95).
Conclusions and Implications: Stable marriages reduced welfare receipt; however, 46% of women changed their marital status at least once during the study and IPV survivors had 49% higher odds of receipt. Greater attention to the needs of IPV survivors among TANF clientele is called for. Additionally, evidence showed a 66% decrease in odds of TANF receipt for those with a bachelor’s degree. We suggest that pursing policy focused on marriage as a primary pathway out of poverty while decreasing support for mother’s education and underfunding IPV services is misguided. Placing additional barriers in front of mothers wishing to pursue higher education does not serve the goal of sustainability, as earnings and later welfare-receipt are both substantially impacted by educational attainment.