Little is known about longitudinal patterns of welfare program participation among single mothers after they transition from employment to unemployment. To better understand how utilization patterns of these welfare programs may change during the 12 months after a job loss, we used the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine the patterns of participation in Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and unemployment insurance among 342 single mothers who transitioned from employment to unemployment during the Great Recession. Using sequence analysis and cluster analysis, this paper identified four distinct patterns of program participation: (a) constantly receiving in-kind benefits; (b) primarily but not solely receiving food stamps; (c) inconsistent unemployment insurance or Medicaid-based benefits; and (d) limited or no benefits. Almost two-fifths of our sample of single mothers received inconsistent, limited, or no benefits. Results of the multinomial regression revealed that race, work disability, poverty, homeownership, and region of residence were significant factors that influenced whether study subjects participated in or had access to social safety net programs. Our findings illustrate the heterogeneity in patterns of multiple program participation among single mothers transitioning from employment to unemployment. Better understanding these varied patterns may inform decisions that increase the accessibility of US social safety net programs for single mothers during periods of personal economic hardship.
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