Do Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Programs Affect the Well-Being of Children?. Aspects of Child Well-Being Examined in the NEWWS Evaluation


In order to allow sufficient time for the full effects of the NEWWS Evaluation programs to manifest themselves, sample members in the evaluation are being followed for five years from the time they entered the study. Comprehensive data on economic outcomes, including information on quarterly unemployment insurance-reported earnings and monthly welfare and Food Stamp payments, are being collected over the five-year follow-up period for 44,569 single parents (the full sample) who have been randomly assigned to research groups across the seven evaluation sites. (See box A in Figure 2.) At this point in the evaluation, economic outcome data covering the first two years of follow-up have been analyzed and results have been made public.

In addition, a wealth of information was collected through interviews with a subsample of 9,675 individuals, randomly chosen from all research groups in all seven sites, two years after they entered the study. Interviewees in this client survey sample were asked about their experiences in the program, educational attainment, family composition, housing status, employment and wage progression, and total family income, as well as about their children's behavior, school progress, and health and safety(8). (See box B in Figure 2.)

For a subset of the surveyed individuals (3,018 surveyed sample members in three of the seven evaluation sites who had a child aged 3 to 5 at study entry), additional, more detailed data were collected at the time of the interview for the young child(9). (If a family had more than one child aged 3 to 5, one was randomly selected to be studied in depth.) (See box C in Figure 2.)


Figure 2: Sample sizes and data sources for Child outcome analyses in the NEWWS evaluation

These "focal" children, who would have been between about ages 5 and 7 at the two-year interview, were given a direct assessment of cognitive development, and the mothers completed multiple and more detailed measures regarding the children's behavioral and emotional adjustment and physical health and safety. Mothers in the Child Outcomes Study (COS) sample were also asked additional questions concerning nontargeted aspects of the welfare-to-work programs: for example, mothers' psychological well-being, child care arrangements, fathers' involvement with children and the payment of child support, and the family's home and neighborhood environment.

Data relating to all children of the 9,675 mothers interviewed in seven sites and to the young focal children of the 3,018 mothers interviewed in three sites were collected for three child developmental domains or outcome areas: behavioral and emotional adjustment; cognitive functioning and academic achievement; and health and safety. Appendix A details the measures used at the two-year follow-up point to assess changes in each of these areas. Data collection on children (and adults) is ongoing in the NEWWS Evaluation(10), and Box 1 describes the future analyses planned.