Approaches to Evaluating Welfare Reform: Lessons from Five State Demonstrations. 4. Minnesota

10/01/1996

The Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) was implemented in April 1994 in 7 of the state's 87 counties. The same seven counties are serving as research sites for the evaluation. MFIP consists of three major elements: (1) consolidation of AFDC, Food Stamps, and Family General Assistance into a single benefit check with one set of rules governing eligibility and benefits; (2) expansion of financial incentives to work; and (3) stiffening of requirements for participation in the JOBS program. The work incentives are those found in many state waiver demonstrations: expansion of earned-income disregards, an increase in the limit on asset holdings, and elimination of the 100-hour rule for two-parent families. The new JOBS requirements include fewer JOBS exemptions and a 10 percent reduction in benefits for failure to participate in JOBS when participation is mandatory.

The MFIP evaluation has an experimental design with a unique feature that allows the impacts of distinct subsets of the waiver provisions to be estimated separately. (This contrasts with the typical experimental design for waiver demonstration evaluations, which only supports estimation of the overall impact of the full set of waiver provisions.) The unique feature of the MFIP experimental design is the random assignment of applicant and ongoing cases to four experimental/control groups. The four groups are (1) a full experimental group subject to all MFIP reforms (E1), (2) a partial experimental group subject to all MFIP reforms except those pertaining to the JOBS program (E2), (3) a traditional control group subject to the pre-reform AFDC program and the pre-reform JOBS program (C1), and (4) a second control group subject to the pre-reform AFDC program but with no access to the JOBS program (C2). By comparing outcomes for different pairs of groups, impacts of different program combinations may be estimated. These estimates will be based on administrative data, baseline data forms, and two rounds of follow-up surveys. The baseline data forms were completed by applicants/ongoing cases and program staff just before random assignment. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) is evaluating MFIP; Research Triangle Institute (RTI) is conducting the follow-up surveys.