The number of families receiving public cash assistance has decreased since welfare reform and the establishment of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in 1996, with only a few short-lived increases. The early decline was related to caseload exits; the recent decline is attributed to fewer eligible families participating. Using New Jersey TANF data from 2018, we conduct an equity analysis of TANF applications, denials, and the reasons for such denials. Multilevel and multinomial models examine risk factors that may impede access by identity or geography. Findings reveal statistically significant relationships between household characteristics and application outcomes, but no county-level variables were significant. Applicants with prior TANF receipt were less likely to be denied. Noncitizens, applicants with prior sanctions, and those over the TANF time limit were more likely to be denied. We discuss differences in access by race and ethnicity, along with policy implications, in the context of need.

Andrea Hetling, Stephanie Holcomb, David Seith, Annette Riordan, Juan Santiago, Jessica L. Roman, Stephanie , and Amman Seehra

Social Service Review, volume 95, number 4, December 2021