The Administration and Congress have signaled interest in promoting and measuring employment outcomes in federal programs supporting low-income people. This report offers information and insights to help policymakers and stakeholders understand the challenges of and opportunities for measuring employment outcomes in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
This report offers information and insights to help policymakers and stakeholders understand the challenges and opportunities for measuring employment outcomes in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. It also illustrates the difficulty of developing consistent national measures of employment outcomes in TANF that adhere to principles of good performance measurement. The fundamental challenge is that TANF provides great flexibility for states, so state programs differ dramatically in who receives TANF assistance, what is required of them, what assistance they receive, and for how long. As a result, one state may appear to have better outcomes than another because of differences in the structures of their TANF programs, not because of any true differences in the outcomes for people receiving assistance.
Some state TANF agencies already have state-specific performance measurement systems that track and measure employment outcomes and apply incentives and consequences. State-level measures are less complicated to develop than potential national measures because there is far less variation within state TANF programs than across them.
Implementing uniform national employment outcome measures poses challenges and potential unintended consequences. State-specific measures may be less challenging. A realistic understanding of the issues of and options for a federal role in measuring TANF employment outcomes can help ACF and other policymakers make informed decisions about how best to promote employment through TANF. (Author abstract)