Evaluating Two Approaches to Case Management: Implementation, Participation Patterns, Costs, and Three-Year Impacts of the Columbus Welfare-to-Work Program. Analysis Issues


As discussed in prior chapters, both programs aimed to increase welfare recipients' skills levels before they looked for work. Employment gains and welfare reductions in programs such as these may be delayed while recipients participate in education and training activities. After an initial period of investment in skills-building, integrated and traditional group members may make up for forgone earnings by obtaining more jobs or higher-paying jobs than control group members.

The evaluation designers expected that the programs would affect employment and welfare receipt to different degrees. Specifically, they hypothesized that the integrated program would be more effective than the traditional program in increasing employment and in decreasing welfare receipt.

The hypothesis that the integrated program would produce larger employment and earnings gains was based primarily on two expectations. First, as discussed in Chapter 3, the integrated approach was expected to engage more people in the program than the traditional approach, and it did. It was expected that exposing more people to the program's messages and services, would, in turn, result in larger effects on employment and earnings. Second, as discussed in Chapter 2, the integrated program was expected to more effectively deliver program services and monitor welfare recipients' situations than the traditional program, which could lead to larger employment and earnings effects. In fact, the implementation data suggested some differences between the programs: namely, integrated case managers provided more personalized attention than did traditional case managers and more closely monitored participation in program activities.

The hypothesis that the integrated program would produce larger decreases in welfare receipt and payments than the traditional program was predicated on two expectations. First, if the integrated program increased employment and earnings more than the traditional program (as discussed above), that, in turn, likely would result in larger welfare reductions. Second, it was expected that the integrated structure would engender more effective eligibility case management than the traditional structure by giving case managers more knowledge about the client more quickly, and allowing them to close ineligible cases more quickly. For example, the closer contact between integrated case managers and recipients might allow integrated staff to learn about eligibility changes that traditional staff might not. Also, if a sample member became employed, an integrated case manager might find out about this change more quickly because the integrated staff see their clients more frequently. Once they had this knowledge, integrated staff would also be able to respond more quickly because they could reduce a grant amount or close a grant themselves, rather than having to ask another staff member do so.

As Chapter 1 described, random assignment in Columbus occurred at the point of referral to the JOBS program. The impacts presented in this chapter, therefore, reflect the effects not only of the program services and mandates but also of the referral to the program and any related follow-up, such as sanctioning for orientation nonattendance. Telling someone she must participate in a welfare-to-work program could affect her labor market and welfare behavior in at least two ways: She could be motivated to quickly find a job and leave welfare to avoid the program mandate or, alternatively, to delay employment to gain access to the services offered by the program. Because random assignment occurred only at the point of referral to the program, it is impossible to isolate the effects of either the referral to the program or the program services and mandates.(4) The impacts presented in this chapter, therefore, represent estimates of the combined or average effect of the program services and mandates and the referral to the program.

As mentioned in Chapter 3, some people in the integrated and traditional groups never attended JOBS orientation and thus had no chance to attend program activities. The outcomes for these sample members are averaged together with the impacts for orientation attendees. This may "dilute" the estimate of the effects of the welfare-to-work program services and mandates, especially for the traditional program in which even fewer people attended orientation.