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Substance Abuse, Employment, and Welfare Tenure

NCJ Number
Date Published
Daniel Chandler, Pat Jordan, Joan Meisel, Beth Menees Rienzi, Sandra Naylor Goodwin
This study examined the effect that substance abuse problems have on female head of household welfare recipients.
Findings from this study on the effects of substance abuse problems on female welfare recipients include the following: during the first interview, 12 percent of the study population qualified for alcohol or drug diagnosis, either dependence or abuse; the most common types of drug use reported was marijuana (8 percent), misuse of prescription opioids (7 percent); and misuse of prescription sedatives (3 percent); and rates for most measures of alcohol and other drug (AOD) problems decreased during the second and third waves of interviews. The study also found that by the third interview, 59.6 percent of participants no longer received TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) cash aid, and participants with an estimated need for AOD services were almost twice as likely to leave welfare for negative reasons compared to those with no AOD needs. In addition, the study found that women with AOD needs were more likely to work fewer hours, work fewer weeks, or work for lower wages leading to a lower earned income trajectory. The primary objective of this study was to determine the effect that substance abuse problems have on the ability of female heads of household to get off welfare and maintain stable employment. Data for the study were obtained from a sample of female head of household welfare recipients, n=632, in 2 California counties. The women were interviewed three times between 1999 and 2001 to assess the relationship of substance abuse to their ability to leave welfare and obtain stable employment. The findings from the study suggest that the need for AOD services is associated with an individual’s continued need for welfare services, leaving welfare for negative reasons, an inability to find stable employment, and a lower earned income trajectory. Research and policy implications are discussed. Tables, figure, and references
Date Created: November 30, 2004