The National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program - Overview of Evaluation


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program it created, made moving people from welfare to work a primary goal of federal welfare policy. The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 furthered this goal, authorizing the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to award $3 billion in welfare-to-work grants to states and local communities to promote job opportunities and employment preparation for the hardest-to-employ recipients of TANF and for noncustodial parents of children on TANF. Grants are awarded directly by DOL on a competitive basis to programs in local communities with innovative welfare-to-work approaches, and through states, on a formula basis, to the Private Industry Councils or equivalent bodies in all JTPA service delivery areas (now Workforce Investment Boards, under the Workforce Investment Act, which replaced JTPA).

The authorizing law instructed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to evaluate the DOL Welfare-to-Work Grants Program (WtW), including those undertaken by formula and competitive grantees and by American Indian and Alaska Native tribal organizations. DHHS, in conjunction with the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development, originally designed an evaluation to address five questions:

  1. What are the types and packages of services provided by WtW grantees?  How do they compare to services already available under TANF or JTPA/WIA funding?
  2. What are the effects of various WtW program approaches on employment and on families well-being?
  3. What challenges are confronted as grantees implement and operate WtW programs?
  4. Do the benefits of WtW programs outweigh their costs?
  5. How well do Workforce Investment Boards and other non-TANF organizations — the primary vehicles for funding and operating WtW programs — meet the challenge of implementing WtW programs for the hardest-to-employ?

In August 1998, DHHS awarded a contract for the evaluation to Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) and its subcontractors, the Urban Institute and Support Services International, Inc.

The design of the evaluation has evolved somewhat since its inception, in large part because of the long start-up of WtW programs. Under a modified design adopted by DHHS, the evaluation plan now includes three main components:

  1. A Descriptive Assessment of All WtW Grantees. A mail survey of all grantees in 1998 and 1999 provided a basis for examining program designs and activities, target populations, characteristics of participants, and — to the extent that they were available from grantees themselves — placement outcomes. (See the April 2000 report based on these surveys, titled Further Progress, Persistent Constraints.)
  2. In-Depth Process and Implementation Study. Two rounds of structured site visits were conducted to local programs of eleven grantees, selected because of their innovative approaches, settings, or target groups, or because they are typical of some of the more common WtW interventions. The aim was to identify implementation issues, challenges and lessons. A January 2001 report was issued based on the first round of in-depth visits conducted in 1999-2000, titled Program Structure and Service Delivery in Eleven Welfare-to-Work Grant Programs. Upcoming reports will examine in greater detail the operation of these eleven programs and program costs.
  3. Study of Participant Outcomes. In eleven grantee sites, follow-up data are being collected through 12- and 24-month follow-up surveys and administrative data, for analysis of participants, program activities, services received, and welfare and employment outcomes. Findings on participant outcomes will be reported in 2003.

In addition to this core evaluation, a special process and implementation study focuses on tribal programs. It documents welfare and employment systems operated by American Indian and Alaska Native WtW grantees, the supportive services they provide, and how tribes integrate funds from various sources to move their members from welfare to work.

Recent Publications

  • National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report, September 2004.
  • Targeted Help for the Hard-to-Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs, September 2004.
  • Unemployment Insurance as a Potential Safety Net for TANF Leavers:  Evidence from Five States, September 2004.
  • Overcoming Challenges to Business and Economic Development in Indian Country, August 2004.
    American Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages have embraced the goals, objectives, and programs associated with welfare reform, but the lack of jobs limits the success of tribal programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Welfare-to-Work (WtW). The lack of jobs is one of the biggest problems in Indian Country. Recognizing the scope and importance of this problem, the federal government has promoted business and economic development (BD/ED) in Indian country. This report presents findings from a Mathematica study, done under the WtW evaluation, of economic development initiatives in eight tribes (Cheyenne River Sioux, Citizen Potawatomi, Colville Confederated Tribes, Gila River, Mississippi Choctaw, Navajo Nation, Three Affiliated Tribes, and Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and two Alaska Native corporations (Bristol Bay Native Corporation and Doyon Limited).
  • The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry, Report to Congress, February 2004
    This report is the second of two reports to Congress from HHS' congressionally mandated evaluation of the US Dept. of Labor's Welfare-to-Work (WtW) Grants Program. The report presents findings from the outcomes analysis component of the evaluation, and describes the characteristics and subsequent experiences of enrollees in WtW programs in 11 study sites. Main findings address the characteristics of program enrollees; the nature of the services they received; and their outcomes in terms of employment, hours worked, wage rates, job benefits, TANF receipt and poverty status. (in PDF format)
  • Welfare-to-Work Grants Programs: Adjusting to Changing Circumstances, November 2003
    This report provides an update on the status of WtW program operations and post-WtW plans for the eleven evaluation study sites as the five-year grant periods draw to a close. The report highlights the extent of ongoing enrollment, the ways in which grantees have adapted to a variety of economic and policy changes that have occurred since the beginning of the program, and grantees' perceptions of the value of the program.
  • Giving Noncustodial Parents Options: Employment and Child Support Outcomes of the SHARE Program, October 2003.
    The Support Has A Rewarding Effect (SHARE) initiative operated with Welfare-to-Work (WtW) grant support in three counties in the state of Washington. SHARE offered three options to noncustodial parents (NCP) whose minor, dependent children were receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and who were in arrears on their support obligations: (1) start paying support, (2) enroll in a WtW program, or (3) face possible incarceration. The main objective of this study was to examine the employment, earnings, and child support outcomes for targeted NCPs.
  • Operating TANF: Opportunities and Challenges for Tribes and Tribal Consortia, August 2003.
    This report is the latest product from the tribal component of HHS' congressionally mandated evaluation of DOL's Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. The report describes the challenges and successes of ten tribal grantees in planning, implementing, and operating tribal TANF, the tribal welfare program with the most participants and the largest budget. Main findings address the process by which tribes make the decision to operate a tribal TANF program, the importance of a coordinated TANF plan, strategies for transitioning the program from state to tribal control, administrative and reporting challenges, and successes in adapting the program to reflect tribal cultural needs and values. The report should be helpful to any tribe implementing or considering a tribal TANF program.
  • Understanding the Costs of the DOL Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, August 2002.
    This report examines the costs of selected WtW programs. The main objectives of the WtW cost analysis were to understand the cost structure of these programs and factors that influenced their costs. Program evaluators and planners should find this information useful in assessing the outcomes of WtW programs and in making decisions about future programs with similar objectives.
  • The Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, August 2002.
    The report presents findings from the process and implementation analysis component of the evaluation, and describes the service delivery operations of programs funded with WtW grants in eleven study sites. This report is based on (1) information collected through two rounds of site visits in 1999 and 2001, and (2) management information system data maintained by the programs on participants and services.
  • Program Structure and Service Delivery in Eleven Welfare-to-Work Grant Programs, January 2001. This interim report from the evaluation documents the implementation, structure, and operations of WtW grant-funded programs in the eleven study sites included in the evaluation, as they existed in mid-2000.
  • Further Progress, Persistent Constraints:  Findings from a Second Survey of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, June 2000.
    This report presents the latest findings from HHS’ congressionally mandated evaluation of the Department of Labor’s Welfare-to-Work Grants Program.  Based on a survey of all WtW grantees conducted from November 1999 to February 2000, it provides descriptive information on the status of WtW programs, enrollment levels, job placements, and service structures.  This descriptive assessment is one of several components of the overall evaluation, which will also include a process and implementation study that will identify implementation issues and challenges and participant outcomes, and a separate process study of tribal WtW grantees.
  • Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program:  Findings From Exploratory Site Visits and Review of Program Plans, February 2000.
    This report, one of several to be issued under the evaluation, provides information on the early design, operations, and implementation of the Welfare-to-Work grants program in selected sites.  Based on visits to 22 sites conducted from late-1998 through mid-1999 and a review of documents submitted by programs to the Department of Labor, the report updates what we know about WtW implementation challenges and experiences.  Written by staff of Mathematica Policy Research and the Urban Institute.
  • Early Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Report to Congress, March 1999.
    This report by Irma Perez-Johnson and Alan M. Hershey, Mathematica Policy Research, responds to a congressional mandate for rapid findings on Work-to-Welfare (WtW) program implementation.  Although the evaluation will extend through 2004, this report provides early responses to a survey of grantees conducted at the end of 1998 and, thus, an outline of federally funded WtW programs and their initial start-up experiences.

For Further Information

If you have any questions about the Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program,
please call or write:

The HHS project officer:

Alana Landey
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 404E
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Tel. ( 202) 401-6636
Fax: (202) 690-6562
E-mail: alana.landey @

   or    The contractor’s project director:

Alan M. Hershey
Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
P.O. Box 2393
Princeton, NJ 08543
Tel. (609) 275-2384
Fax: (609) 799-0005
E-mail: ahershey @