Devolution, discretion, and the effect of local political values on TANF sanctioning

Richard C. Fording, Joe Soss, Sanford F. Schram

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    99 Scopus citations


    One of welfare reform's most significant consequences is the devolution of policy-making authority from the federal government and states to local governments and frontline workers. What is perhaps less often appreciated is that devolution of authority to state governments has been accompanied by a significant decentralization of policy-making authority within states. As a result, prior research has not given sufficient attention to local political context as a factor shaping program implementation. This article examines the effect of local political values on the use of sanctions to penalize welfare recipients. Analyzing administrative data from the Florida Department of Children and Families for over 60,000 welfare clients, we find that there is a statistically significant amount of local variation in sanctioning rates across the state of Florida, even after controlling welfare clients' characteristics. Local sanctioning patterns are systematically related to selected characteristics of local communities, including their ideological orientations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)285-316
    Number of pages32
    JournalSocial Service Review
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2007


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