||The replacement of Aid for Families with Dependent Children with Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 1996 revoked qualifying families'
legal guarantee of cash assistance benefits and instituted a
state-administered block grant program. Reflecting contemporary concerns over
rising cash assistance caseloads and centralized government, TANF gives each
state an annual block grant and the authority to allocate the funds in any
way "reasonably calculated" to realize its statutory goals. States
utilize this flexibility to fund a wide variety of programs in addition to
cash assistance for needy families, including work supports, childcare
assistance, pregnancy prevention initiatives, and refundable tax credits.
Although consequential, little progress has been made in answering how
states' allocations of their TANF block grants have changed over time and
what political, economic, and social factors correlate with states' TANF
expenditures. My research aims to further scholarship concerning both
questions. Drawing on data published by the Administration for Children and
Families, I created a database of every state's TANF expenditures in ten
funding categories between fiscal years 1998 and 2013. To overcome
significant methodological challenges in the data, I used funding categories
developed by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and calculated
three-year moving averages of the expenditures. Drawing on this database, I
undertake a descriptive analysis of states' TANF spending. My findings
indicate that over time, states shifted their expenditures away from cash
assistance toward other sources, including pregnancy prevention initiatives
and refundable tax credits. The reductions in cash assistance expenditures
were dramatic: The median state spent 22% of its total TANF funds on cash
assistance in fiscal year 2013, a decrease of 30% from fiscal year 1998.
My descriptive study is the foundation for an analysis of what state-level
factors, such as change in cash assistance caseload, partisan control of
government, proportion of African Americans in the population, and proportion
of Hispanics in the population correlate with states' TANF expenditures.
Preliminary findings indicate that states diverted expenditures away from
cash assistance as cash assistance caseloads decreased, implying a rational
basis for reallocation. However, results also suggest strong and significant
negative relationships between the proportions of African Americans and
Hispanics in a state and cash assistance spending. If corroborated by further
analysis, these findings would fit within broader themes in the welfare
literature concerning the significance of race and ethnicity in United
States' social policy.