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Evaluating Welfare Reform in an Era of Transition
overall effect of welfare reform and least suited for gauging the effects of detailed reform strategies, and as important as experiments for the evaluation of broad individual components. However, nonexperimental methods require good cross-area data on programs, area characteristics, and individual characteristics and outcomes.
DATA FOR MONITORING AND EVALUATING SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMS
Addressing the research questions of interest for welfare reform require data from multiple sources (survey, administrative, qualitative, and program description data) and across multiple levels (national, state, and local). Although the current data infrastructure contains many excellent sources, limitations in the infrastructure are sufficiently severe that important questions concerning the effects of PRWORA and other welfare reforms have been, and will continue to be, very difficult, if not impossible, to answer. As a consequence, much work needs to be done to make them useful for research.
The report contains many recommendations for improvements in the current data infrastructure, both for national-level data sets and for state- and local-level data sets. These recommendations are geared toward addressing specific limitations of currently available data. However, limitations in the current data infrastructure for human service and social welfare program research are partly the result of inadequate governmental structures to support the collection and maintenance of data on these programs. Current responsibilities and functions for collection of such data are spread across several different agencies, none of whose primary purpose is the maintenance and development of data.
Within the DHHS, both the ACF and ASPE are responsible for components of the entire data collection system. ACF is primarily a programmatic department charged with administering social welfare programs aimed at families and children. It is also responsible for collecting administrative data on TANF and related programs from the states, but these data are collected to assess state performance and compliance with federal mandates; they are not collected with the primary purpose of research or program evaluation. ASPE is responsible for strategic planning, policy development, and evaluation of all health and human service programs. It has supported many data collection activities in the past and currently is supporting data collection for welfare leaver and diversion study grants. However, data collection is not part of its specific charge, and ASPE does not have the resources to fully address the extensive data needs. DHHS has a number of other agencies that collect data covering health topics and health programs, but none of these is charged with collecting data for social welfare programs. Other federal departments, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education, and U.S. Department of Justice have agencies that