Do Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Programs Affect the Well-Being of Children?. Impacts on Adults


The 11 programs differed in the messages that they sent to welfare recipients about how best to obtain and retain employment: Some stressed getting a job quickly and others stressed initial investments in basic education or training. Most of the programs imposed a mandatory participation requirement on all recipients, and several used financial sanctions (that is, welfare grant reductions) extensively to enforce this mandate. All programs substantially increased participation in activities designed to promote employment, beyond what would have happened in their absence.

Most of the programs had impacts on their targeted outcomes: Over the two-year follow-up period, four programs that had an education focus increased the probability that welfare recipients would obtain a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate. All programs decreased some aspect of welfare dependency, and 8 of the 11 increased two-year employment levels. While most programs increased individuals' reliance on earnings, as opposed to welfare, net income for these individuals was largely unchanged.

Impacts on nontargeted outcomes were found as well: Some programs led to a reduction in health insurance coverage, and most programs increased the use of paid child care. Across the programs, there were few effects on fertility or family structure, housing status, or mothers' psychological functioning, stress, or parenting.