Standing still or moving up? Evidence from Wisconsin on the long-term employment and earnings of TANF participants

Chi Fang Wu, Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study identified the employment and earnings trajectories of welfare recipients over six years for a sample of 14,150 women who entered the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) in Wisconsin in its first year. Wisconsin longitudinal administrative data were used to examine differential patterns of mid-term (three years) and long-term (six years) employment and earnings success. We developed a conceptual approach to categorizing participants' employment and earnings trajectory groups. Results indicate substantial diversity in employment and earnings patterns. Some women have consistently positive outcomes, others show steady improvements over time, and others have inconsistent patterns that end strong. We found that 46% of the sample fit into one of three successful employment trajectories, and 22% fit into one of three successful earnings trajectories. Results also reveal that many women who were successful in the mid-term were not able to sustain their progress. For example, only 56% of those who were earming successes in the mid-term were still successful in the long-term. Finally, logistic regression models were used to compare the factors associated with mid-term and long-term success and with employment success and earnings success. Implications of findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)89-103
Number of pages15
JournalSocial Work Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2008


  • Employment and earning
  • Poverty
  • Social policy
  • TANF
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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