Do Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Programs Affect the Well-Being of Children?. Effects of Welfare-to-Work Programs on Children's Cognitive Functioning and Academic Achievement


  • For the young children in the COS sample, favorable program impacts on cognitive development were found, although they can be considered small in magnitude. Impacts were concentrated in the Atlanta LFA program.

For focal children in the COS sample, the Bracken Basic Concept Scale/School Readiness Composite (BBCS/SRC) was used to measure cognitive development. For each of the six COS programs, three outcome measures were developed from the BBCS/SRC scores (reflecting the average score and the distribution of scores), and one outcome measure consisted of an index of two survey questions asked of mothers about academic problems. Three of the six programs had impacts in this outcome area, and they were all in a desirable direction. (See Table 4.) The Atlanta LFA program increased the average BBCS/SRC score, increased the proportion of focal children scoring in the top quartile, and decreased the proportion scoring in the bottom quartile. The Atlanta and Grand Rapids HCD programs slightly increased the proportion of children scoring above the 75th percentile, but the mean score was unaffected.

  • For school-age children across all evaluation sites, few program impacts on academic achievement were found.

Children's school progress was measured by asking parents whether their children (1) had repeated a grade or (2) were attending a class for learning problems. Between 8 and 23 percent (depending on the site) of control group families with all school-age children reported that at least one of their children had repeated a grade in school during the two-year follow-up period; between 14 and 33 percent reported that any of their children were currently attending a special class for learning problems. (See Table 5.) For program group families with all school-age children, two programs — Riverside LFA and Columbus Integrated — had any impacts in this area; again, these were in a desirable direction. (See Table 6.)


Table 4: For focal children in the child outcomes study sample: Impacts on Child Outcomes

  Table 5: For families with all school-age children: control group child outcomes

  Table 6: For familes with all school-age children: impacts on child outcomes