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

06/01/2000

Figure 1 suggests that numerous features of mandatory welfare-to-work programs are hypothesized to directly impact the adults subject to such programs and that these targeted effects on adults can potentially, through effects on nontargeted outcomes, influence child well-being. This section briefly summarizes effects on targeted outcomes for the 11 programs in the seven evaluation sites. The effects of the programs are measured by comparing outcomes for program groups with those of control groups; the resulting differences, or impacts, can be confidently viewed as the effects of the programs.(16) As in the previous section, while most shown results are for the full sample, contrasts between impacts for the client survey sample and for the COS sample, where they exist, are highlighted.(17)

  • Four of the 11 programs increased the probability that sample members would obtain a high school diploma or GED, including two of the three education-focused programs to which COS sample mothers were subject.

While most education-focused programs increased participation in basic education among those who entered the study without a high-school diploma or GED, only three of these programs (Grand Rapids and Riverside HCD and Columbus Traditional) increased GED certificate attainment. For all sample members, not just those who entered the study without these education credentials, impacts on GED receipt in the three programs ranged from 3 to 8 percentage points. (Table 2 shows these impacts for the several different samples for which child impacts are discussed later in this document.) Portland's employment-focused program, which used a varied first activity approach, achieved similar gains in GED receipt. (The other three employment-focused programs had no effect on GED attainment.)

  • All 11 programs reduced some aspect of welfare dependency to some degree, but among COS sample mothers welfare reductions were not as universal.

For the full sample, seven programs decreased cumulative welfare expenditures by 10 percent or more relative to the control groups, a historically large effect. (See Appendix B.) The Portland and Grand Rapids LFA programs produced unusually large decreases of 17 and 19 percent, respectively. The Riverside LFA welfare expenditure impact was also large (14 percent). Among COS sample mothers, four of the six programs to which they were subject reduced welfare dependency. For this sample, the Grand Rapids and Riverside LFA programs decreased cumulative welfare expenditures by at least 15 percent, a large impact; the Atlanta LFA and Riverside HCD programs decreased expenditures by a smaller percentage. Finally, while welfare expenditure reductions were found for the full samples in the Atlanta and Grand Rapids HCD programs, they were not evident for the COS samples in these same programs.

 

Table 2: Impacts on selected targeted outcomes, by sample

Table 2 continued: Impacts on selected targeted outcomes, by sample (more data)

Table 2 Sources and notes

Eight of the 11 programs increased two-year employment levels. Among COS sample members, five of the six programs to which they were subject increased employment, and impacts on employment rates were generally substantially higher for this sample than for the client survey samples in these five programs.

A majority of control group members worked for pay at some point during the two-year follow-up period. For the client survey sample, three of the employment-focused programs (all except Atlanta LFA) and four of the seven education-focused programs (Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside HCD; and Detroit) increased two-year employment levels. (See Table 2.) Among COS sample members, all programs except the Atlanta LFA program increased two-year employment levels. Employment impacts ranged from 6 percentage points in the Grand Rapids HCD program to 25 percentage points in the Riverside LFA program. These employment impacts were substantially larger than those for the client survey sample in all but one of the five programs. The biggest difference occurred in the Riverside LFA program, where the impact for the COS sample was nearly 7 percentage points higher than the impact for the client survey sample.

  • Nine of the 11 programs produced two-year earnings gains, although many of these impacts were not statistically significant for the client survey sample. Impacts on total two-year earnings were found for the COS sample in three of the six programs: Riverside LFA and HCD and Grand Rapids LFA.

For the client survey sample, earnings gains for three of the programs (Riverside LFA and HCD and Portland) were moderate and statistically significant, while earnings gains for the other programs were smaller and not statistically significant. (All but two of the 11 programs produced two-year earnings gains for the much larger full samples.) (See Table 2.) For COS sample mothers, impacts on total two-year earnings were found in the Riverside LFA and HCD and Grand Rapids LFA programs. The largest earnings impact occurred in the Riverside LFA program where, on average, mothers in the COS program group earned an impressive 71 percent more than their control group counterparts.

  • While most programs increased sample members' reliance on earnings, as opposed to welfare, their net incomes were largely unchanged. As a result, the programs lifted few additional families above the poverty line. This was the case for the client survey sample as well as the COS sample.

Across all 11 programs in the second year of follow-up, control group members in the client survey sample averaged between $6,055 (Oklahoma City) and $8,596 (Columbus) in combined income from earnings, welfare, and Food Stamps. Few programs substantially altered these combined income levels; in general, reductions in welfare, Food Stamps, and other benefits matched or exceeded earnings gains. (See Table 2.) Including estimates of the earned income tax credit (EITC) as income (not shown in Table 2) produced little change in this finding. Interestingly, one program (Riverside LFA) increased the proportion of COS sample members with incomes at or above the poverty level by 6 percentage points, a result not found for the Riverside LFA full sample. For COS sample members, there were no program effects on child support awards or payment.

  • For the client survey sample, two programs had the effect of pushing a proportion of families deeper into poverty. For families in the COS sample in these two programs, this result was not statistically significant.

The Grand Rapids and Riverside LFA programs increased, by 6 and 7 percentage points, respectively, the proportion of sample members living deeply in poverty, that is, below 50 percent of the poverty line. (See Table 2.) While increases on this measure are apparent for the COS samples in these two programs, they are not statistically significant.