Publication Date



This study investigates the possibility that teens in more economically-disadvantaged families may have entered the labor market in response to the 1996 welfare legislation that replaced AFDC with TANF. Data are from the outgoing rotation groups of the Current Population Survey (CPS) from September 1995-May 1996 (pre-TANF) and from September 2000-May 2001 (post-TANF). To identify the policy's effect, we compare changes in the employment of teens in economically-disadvantaged families over the study period with changes in the employment of their more advantaged counterparts (a "difference-in-difference" methodology). We find that teen employment significantly increased among those in economically-disadvantaged families relative to their more-advantaged counterparts, even after controlling for macroeconomic conditions, among other factors. Our results suggest that TANF's pro-employment effects go beyond the effects previously identified for single mothers.

Document Type

Working Paper


Financial Inclusion


Asset Building

Original Citation

Porterfield, S. L., & Winkler, A. E. (2003). The struggle to make ends meet: Teen employment and the 1996 federal welfare legislation (CSD Working Paper No. 03-02). St. Louis, MO: Washington University, Center for Social Development.


Welfare Reform, Asset-Limit Policy, and Asset Accumulation


teen employment, TANF, poverty