How is 'welfare-to-work' shaped by contingencies of economy, welfare policy and human capital?

Tyrone Cheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


This research weighed the impact made by the economy, welfare policy and human capital on unemployed welfare mothers in the USA. Specifically, it asked how welfare mothers' employment status, poverty status, and enrolment for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are affected by these three factors. Longitudinal data from the Survey of Income Program Participation (SIPP) provided a sample of TANF mothers. The SIPP data shed light on modes of economic adaptation exhibited by these mothers. Event history analysis was applied to the data (for years 1996-2000), and results were obtained showing that restrictive welfare policies combined with high unemployment can boost the number of working poor Americans by severing them from TANF. Human capital contingencies - which here comprised development of the sample's occupational skills, work experience and education - helped TANF mothers gain employment and even leave welfare. Some were able to do so and live above the poverty level. Social support, especially family support, was another factor included in this study that was found to be of some use to unemployed mothers in terms of finding work. Results bear several implications for TANF policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)212-219
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Social Welfare
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • Employment
  • Poverty
  • Welfare policies


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