Approaches to Evaluating Welfare Reform: Lessons from Five State Demonstrations. Chapter 4: Implementation of Experimental Evaluations

10/01/1996

Even if the design of a welfare reform evaluation is fundamentally sound, the implementation of the evaluation is critical for its overall success. The successful implementation of an experimental welfare reform evaluation generally will include the following features:

  • Random assignment will occur at the point in time that leads to the desired population of cases being represented in the research sample.
  • Random assignment will be performed in a manner that is not subject to manipulation by clients or caseworkers.
  • The control group policies will represent the policies that would have been in place in the absence of welfare reform.
  • Once random assignment has occurred, experimental and control group cases will continue to receive, for as long as the evaluation is in effect, the policies to which they were assigned originally.

Failure to achieve these goals when implementing an experimental welfare reform evaluation may lead to inaccurate estimates of the impacts of welfare reform policies.

This chapter address four issues concerning the implementation of experimental welfare reform evaluations:

  1. When should random assignment be performed?
  2. How should random assignment be performed?
  3. Once random assignment has occurred, what steps can be taken to ensure that the experimental policies represent genuine welfare reform policies and that the control policies remain the same as the policies that would have been in place in the absence of welfare reform?
  4. Once random assignment has occurred, what steps can be taken to ensure that experimental cases continue to receive experimental policies and that control cases continue to receive control policies?