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In 1993, Iowa obtained a waiver to enact many of the key provisions of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in its welfare assistance and initiated the Iowa Family Investment Program (FIP). We use Iowa state administrative data for the period 1993-95 and study why some low-income households successfully leave public assistance while others who leave later return. We focus on those who were active in FIP at the time of the program reforms. The research explores the role of employment, earnings, and other support such as the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and child support for recipients who leave FIP. Geographic (metro and nonmetro) differences are of specific interest. Reasons for recidivism are examined over time, with specific attention to local labor market conditions and factors that differentiate areas by degree of rural/metro location (various classifications). The analysis provides evidence on the effects of programmatic changes in Iowa's welfare programs. Among those active in FIP in all months of the two-year period, employment increased. Multivariate analysis of recidivism shows that during the first two quarters, those in nonmetro areas were more likely to return to FIP; however, after this initial period, the risk of return was very similar in the two areas. The analysis provides specific results for better understanding of the impact of recent reforms on low-income households in a state that is relatively rural.


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