Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Richard C. Fording

Abstract

In response to the passage of the Personal Responsibility Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) and its lead cash assistance program Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), states have taken unique and divergent approaches to welfare policy implementation. One popular approach to workfare delivery, known as privatization, involves contracting with non-profit and for-profit entities operating within the private sector. The General Accounting Office reports that nearly every state is privatizing TANF services to some degree through third-party contracts, but very little is understood about why variation in contracting exists and the ramifications for the program outcomes of welfare recipients. This dissertation initially explores the possible factors that influence welfare privatization decisions. Ordinary least squares regression estimations suggest that contracting patterns are significantly associated with levels of fiscal capacity, urbanization, African American caseloads, and non-profit presence. Secondly, this dissertation examines the potential ramifications of privatization on the TANF program outputs and outcomes of individual welfare clients. After exploring state-level patterns in privatization and performance, I estimate multilevel models that simultaneously incorporate both individual-level and contextual-level variables providing the discipline with the clearest picture of how welfare clients are fairing under various administrative environments. The results of the multi-level analysis favor the null hypothesis as the majority of privatization coefficients are statistically insignificant, indicating minimal direct ownership effects on the quality of TANF outcomes. That being said, there is inconsistent yet persistent evidence emerging from both the state-level and multi-level analyses suggesting that non-profit welfare delivery induces superior TANF work participation rates and employment outcomes. Privatizing welfare provision is not a panacea in that TANF outcomes are seldom improved under profit-seeking or non-profit arrangements, but an unwavering commitment to social missions and assisting the poor could put non-profits in a relatively superior position to transform welfare recipients into self-sufficient, fully employed members of society.

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