Social Work Advocacy in the Post-TANF Environment: Lessons from Early TANF Research Studies

Steven G. Anderson, Brian M. Gryzlak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined early research findings concerning the well-being of people who leave Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs and then applies these findings in the development of TANF-related advocacy strategies. Based on secondary data analysis of TANF leaver studies from 12 states with large TANF caseloads, the authors focus on the employment and earnings experiences of leavers; TANF recidivism and its relationship to job stability; and the use of support services. State studies typically have found employment levels among leavers in the 55 percent to 65 percent range, but average earnings fall below the poverty level. Although those who remain employed can expect earnings growth, job instability is a significant problem and contributes to TANF recidivism rates of 21 percent to 35 percent within the first year. Available support services such as Medicaid, food stamps, and child care subsidies are underused, often because leavers do not understand that they are eligible. Recommended advocacy strategies include policy interventions to improve the economic well-being of low-income working people, as well as administrative and direct practice strategies to improve the implementation of existing policies. The authors argue that attention to such advocacy efforts is both critical and opportune for social work, given the profession's historical mission, impending federal TANF reauthorization, and unspent TANF allocations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-314
Number of pages14
JournalSocial work
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • Poverty
  • TANF
  • Welfare reform
  • Working poor people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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