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Cultural Filtering, Employment and Wages under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)


  • Daniel Underwood
  • Dan Axelsen
  • Dan Friesner


This paper empirically identifies and isolates the role demographics and cultural filters - a priori attributes used to screen applicants differentially - play in determining employment patterns by industry and region. Our analysis focuses on three geographically and culturally distinct areas of Washington State with high WorkFirst (Washington's TANF program) eligible populations and industries where those individuals are likely to seek employment. Using data from a panel of WorkFirst participants, empirical results indicate that employment levels and wage premiums vary significantly by demographics, both within and across regions, and that cultural filtering partly explains these variations. It is argued that if the shared goal of WorkFirst and TANF is to move people from welfare to work, participants should be directed toward those industries in which they have a relatively high probability of being favorably "filtered," be better prepared to possess those attributes filtered for, and for WorkFirst to take on an active role as "match-maker" between program participants and employers.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Underwood & Dan Axelsen & Dan Friesner, 2010. "Cultural Filtering, Employment and Wages under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)," Journal of Economic Issues, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(1), pages 225-242.
  • Handle: RePEc:mes:jeciss:v:44:y:2010:i:1:p:225-242
    DOI: 10.2753/JEI0021-3624440111

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