A report from the Urban Institute, Why Does Cash Welfare Depend on Where You Live? How and Why State TANF Programs Vary explores state variation in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)—a federally-funded block grant that provides cash assistance to low income families with children. The report indicates that, compared to whites, a larger share of African Americans live in states with less generous assistance, more restrictive requirements, and shorter time limits.
As a block grant, TANF gives states flexibility in the design of their cash assistance programs for low income families. The number of families in poverty who receive TANF ranges from 4 per every 100 families in poverty in Louisiana to 78 per 100 in Vermont; the maximum monthly benefit for a family of three ranges from $170 in Mississippi to $932 in Alaska; and the maximum length of time a family can receive benefits ranges from 21 months in Connecticut to no lifetime limit in New York and Massachusetts. Eligibility requirements for receiving cash benefits, such as work requirements and which educational activities are treated as work-related, also vary by state.
Fifty-six percent of African Americans live in the 25 states that serve the fewest families relative to need. These states serve no more than 19 out of every 100 families living in poverty. Forty-six percent of non-Hispanic whites live in such states. Sixty-three percent of African Americans live in the 25 states with maximum monthly benefits of less than $428, compared to fifty-two percent of non-Hispanic whites. Fifty-nine percent of African Americans and fifty-three percent of non-Hispanic whites live in states with short time limits. Further analysis by the authors indicates that an African American share of the population 5 percentage points higher than the national average is associated with lower maximum monthly benefits by more than $25, or more than $325 per year. A higher share of African Americans is also associated with harsher sanctions for failure to meet program rules, such as work requirements.
Why Does Cash Welfare Depend on Where You Live? How and Why State TANF Programs Vary is available at http://urbn.is/2r0vyYQ