Compared to historic levels, a high proportion of the TANF caseload participated in work activities in 1997. More than half reported either working, being in school, or actively looking for work in the past four weeks. On the other hand, more than 4 out of 10 reported at least two significant obstacles to work, such as low education, no recent work experience, or work-limiting mental or physical health problems. States with strong work policies had significantly higher shares of recipients working regardless of reported obstacles. This indicates that steep caseload decline per se may not be clearly related to the barriers to employment welfare recipients have. States still operating traditional AFDC programs on the eve of welfare reform may be doubly challenged because they started with a significantly more-disadvantaged caseload and they had the farthest to go in implementing tougher work-related activities policies.
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