Difficulties after leaving TANF: Inner-city women talk about reasons for returning to welfare

Steven G. Anderson, Anthony P. Halter, Brian M. Gryzlak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People who leave welfare commonly return, and this phenomenon has become more pressing in the time-limited TANF program. Fostering stable TANF exits may be particularly difficult in poor inner-city areas because of job shortages and neighborhood deterioration. Perspectives of TANF leavers from five focus groups in Chicago about problems leading to welfare returns are presented. Participants indicated that low wages and unstable jobs were most often responsible for TANF returns. Obtaining health care and child care and inconsistent performance of TANF caseworkers were stressed as contributing factors. Participants also focused on strengths helpful in sustaining exits from TANF, particularly psychological benefits associated with working and informal supports received from family members and friends. The implications of recipient-identified problems and strengths are discussed, including balancing "work first" employment policies with substantive educational and job development policies. Strategies for improving the performance of TANF case planning are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-194
Number of pages10
JournalSocial work
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Poverty
  • TANF
  • Welfare dependency
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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