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Abstract

This article reports on first-year employment experiences of a randomly selected sample of 213 Illinois TANF leavers. Aggregate employment levels were 70 percent at exit, and leavers typically generated earnings from a single full-time job. However, employment often was unstable, so that only about one-fourth of leavers had the same job both at exit and when interviewed 10-11 months later. Employment instability resulted from the marginal or temporary nature of many jobs, as well as employment barriers such as health problems and lack of day care. Average wage levels easily exceeded the minimum wage and grew during the first year after exit, but nonetheless often were insufficient to provide incomes above the poverty level. The findings underscore the need to develop post-employment service strategies that assist persons in accessing work-related benefits such as child care and Medicaid, as well as improved income support strategies such as expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit.

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