Employment Barriers, Welfare Time-Limit Exemptions and Material Hardship among Long-Term Welfare Recipients in California
Jane Mauldon, University of California, Berkeley
Rebecca A. London, Stanford University
Jon Stiles, University of California, Berkeley
Welfare recipients’ employment barriers are widely researched, and policy interest is growing in the "disconnected" poor. Much less is known about how the more flexible welfare programs respond to barriers. We use a two-wave survey of a cohort of 1,300 timing-out long-term California welfare recipients, linked to administrative welfare and earnings data, to explore the correlation of exemptions with survey-reported barriers, and the influence of barriers and exemptions on employment, earnings and hardships. Only 15% of those with a health, mental health, caregiving or domestic violence barrier are exempted, and one-third of exemptions go to respondents with no reported barriers. Having a barrier predicts less work a year later; having an exemption but no barrier has no effect on subsequent work. Barriers at Wave 1 predict lower income and more hardships later. These effects are mediated by exemptions, and, possibly, by the continued full welfare grant that an exemption permits.