"It's great when people don't even have their welfare cases opened": TANF diversion as process and lesson

Frank Ridzi, Andrew S. London

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


The 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) encouraged states to reduce welfare caseloads. Caseload reduction can be accomplished by promoting exit for work, marriage, or other private means of support and by diverting new applicants. Most research on caseload decline has focused on welfare-to-work outcomes; less is known about processes of diversion. This study employs administrative records and ethnographic data to examine diversion in West County, New York, from 1999 to 2003. Findings demonstrate a high level of diversion and suggest that application is an ongoing and at times remedial process rather than an event. Diversion occurs at all points of the expanded TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) intake process and is associated with one-time lump sum payments as well as the hassle factor engendered by new eligibility requirements. The encumbered lives of applicants and TANF staff discretion are also implicated as factors contributing to diversion. We conclude with an analysis of the implications of TANF diversion for access to benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)725-743
Number of pages19
JournalReview of Policy Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law

Cite this