NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Californians Off Welfare are Leading Better Lives

March 25, 2004

While lawmakers in Washington continue to debate the merits of welfare reform reauthorization, California is making positive, albeit slow, progress in improving its welfare system. Survey results suggest that those leaving the state's welfare system are finding jobs and becoming self-sufficient.

In an evaluation of California's Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program, RAND Corporation researchers found that approximately 55 percent of welfare recipients surveyed were engaged in work-related activity. The study also suggests most recipients are living in stable housing, eat regularly and are receiving adequate child care. Welfare leavers, however, were found to be particularly well off:

  • Household income among welfare leavers was $2,010 per month as compared to $1,559 for individuals who continue to receive aid.
  • Similarly, welfare leaver households were less prone to poverty (41 percent) than welfare recipients (69 percent).
  • A substantial majority (61.8 percent) of individuals leaving welfare did so because they found a job, while another 13.3 percent left because either their spouse found employment or the recipient got married.

In addition, although 12 percent of respondents had their benefits reduced as a result of sanctions within the last year, the RAND survey found many of these recipients were able to get necessary assistance from family, friends and private charity. Overall, these findings help alleviate concerns that benefit time limits, tougher work requirements and sanctions (penalties for noncompliance) would result in many recipients being forced off of welfare and into destitution.

Source: Elaine Reardon, Christine DeMartini, and Jacob Klerman, "Results from the First California Health and Social Services Survey," TRI-121-CDSS, January 2004, Rand Corporation.

For RAND text


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