Do Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Programs Affect the Well-Being of Children?. Appendix C: A Comparison of National Samples of Children and Control Group Children Two Years After Study Entry

Throughout this document, comparisons are made between children of parents in control groups and children of parents who were subject to welfare-to-work programs. In contrast, the following compares the developmental status of children in national samples with children whose parents were in control groups.

Behavioral and Emotional Adjustment

The focal children in the Child Outcomes Study (COS) sample control groups, who were 5 to 7 years old at the two-year follow-up point, were reported by mothers to have more frequent behavior problems than children of the same age in a national sample. Behavior Problems Index (BPI) scores indicate that control group focal children in the COS sample tended, on average, to have more frequent total, externalizing, and internalizing behavior problems at the two-year follow-up point than children in the National Longitudinal Survey of YouthChild Supplement (NLSYCS) sample.

School suspension rates, one measure of children's behavioral and emotional adjustment, were higher for children in control group families in the client survey sample with all school-age children at study entry than for those in a national sample of eighth graders. About one-fifth of all client survey sample members in the control groups reported that at least one of their children had been suspended from school at some point during the two-year follow-up period. (See the upper panel of Table D.1.) Note, however, that many of the client survey questions applied only to children of school age. Narrowing the client survey sample to only those who had all school-age children at study entry, about one-quarter of the control group parents reported that at least one of their children had been suspended from school since study entry. (See Table 5.) In comparison, 11 percent of 1988 eighth graders nationally had ever been suspended from school.(30)

Cognitive Functioning and Academic Achievement

The focal children in the COS sample control groups were significantly less cognitively ready for school than children of the same age in a national sample. Using age-standardized scores on the Bracken Basic Concept Scale/School Readiness Composite (BBCS/ SRC), average scores for COS control group children in Atlanta and Grand Rapids corresponded to the 19th percentile of the national NLSYCS sample; the average scores for Riverside COS control group children corresponded to the 21st percentile. Thus, they displayed less cognitive readiness for school than children in a national sample.

Grade repetition rates were generally higher for children in control group families in the client survey sample with all school-age children at study entry than for those in a national sample. The national average for repeating a grade is approximately 10 percent for children aged 5 to 18.(31) Overall, 7 to 19 percent (depending on the site) of all client survey sample members in the control group reported that at least one of their children had repeated a grade in school during the two-year follow-up period. (See the upper panel of Table D.1.) The range for this same measure was 8 to 23 percent for those with all school-age children at baseline. (See Table 5.) Notably, in four of the seven evaluation sites (Atlanta, Columbus, Detroit, and Oklahoma City), these figures approached or exceeded 20 percent  double the national average.

Health and Safety

Focal children in the COS sample control groups were as likely to be rated by their mothers as being in very good or excellent health as children in a national sample. Between 77 percent (Atlanta) and 82 percent (Riverside) of control group mothers in the COS sample reported that their focal child was in very good or excellent health. In comparison, in 1993, mothers of 79 percent of children aged 5 to 7 in the National Health Interview Survey sample reported that their children were in very good or excellent health. As noted earlier, however, parents with a severely ill or disabled child were generally not mandated to participate in welfare-to-work programs in the early to mid 1990s. While the proportion of families exempted from the participation requirement for this reason was very small during this time period, such families would not have been included in the COS sample, whereas a national sample of children would include some severely and chronically ill children.

Similarly, children of control group members in the client survey sample did not appear to be at high risk on health and safety measures. A surprisingly high proportion of all control group members  up to 8 percent in a site  reported that a child had been removed from their care during the two-year follow-up period because they could not care for or handle the child.(32) (See the upper panel of Appendix D.) Between 18 and 37 percent of all control group members reported that during the previous two years at least one of their children had had an accident, injury, or poisoning requiring a visit to a hospital emergency room or clinic. In comparison, nationally, 12 percent of children under the age of 18 in 1988 had had an accident, injury, or poisoning in the previous year. It is not known, however, how many of these children required medical treatment for these incidents.(33)