The Impact of Welfare Reform on Public Shelter Utilization in Philadelphia: A Time-Series Analysis

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Welfare Reform
public shelters
child welfare
preventive services
welfare reform
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Culhane, Dennis P.
Poulin, Stephen R
Hoyt, Lorlene M
Metraux, Stephen

The use of public shelters in Philadelphia was examined both before and after the implementation of Act 35, Pennsylvania’s response to the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Univariate interrupted time-series analyses were conducted to determine if trends in shelter utilization (the number of families admitted, by family size, by race, by age of household head, by income, by disability indicator, and by average length of stay) changed significantly after March 1997, the month in which Act 35 was implemented, or after 3, 6, 9, and 12 months of implementation. Results indicate that family size and household head age increased after the implementation of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, although not at consistent lags. A small negative effect on self-reported substance abuse and a small positive effect on the proportion of household heads with a disability were found, but at inconsistent lags. As is the case with most evaluations of welfare reform, it is difficult to separate the effects of welfare reform and Philadelphia's economy during the study period. To test the effect of Act 35's implementation while controlling for economic factors, a multivariate regression analysis of family shelter admissions was conducted along with variables for the unemployment rate and for the consumer price index for the cost of rental housing. This analysis revealed a significant positive effect of unemployment and housing costs on public shelter admissions among families and no effect of the implementation of welfare reform.

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Reprinted from Cityscape: A Journal on Policy Development and Research, Volume 6, Issue 2, 2003, pages 173-185.
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