Evaluating Two Welfare-to-Work Program Approaches: Two-Year Findings on the Labor Force Attachment and Human Capital Development Programs in Three Sites. Chapter 2: Research Design, Samples, and Data Sources


Utilizing an unusually strong research design and multiple data sources, this report examines and compares the experiences of single-parent AFDC recipients enrolled in welfare-to-work programs with two different approaches. In addition, the report compares these two different experiences with those of a control group who received no program services. Recipients in each of the three evaluation sites analyzed in this report were placed in one of three treatment, or research, groups through random assignment. The use of a random assignment research design had the advantage of creating, within each evaluation site, a situation in which individuals in each research group had similar background characteristics and faced identical labor market conditions, financial incentives to leave welfare for work, and community services. It assured that any measured differences between the research groups during a follow-up period for example, in terms of participation patterns in job search, education, or training activities and the concomitant costs of providing these employment-related services, and in terms of individuals levels of GED attainment and employment, earnings, and AFDC receipt were due solely to the program approach to which individuals were randomly assigned.

This chapter describes the methodological underpinnings of the analyses presented in the rest of the report. It begins with a discussion of how AFDC recipients became enrolled in JOBS in the three evaluation sites, since it was at this point that individuals were randomly assigned to the research groups analyzed here. Included is an explanation of why differing proportions of the entire AFDC caseloads in the three sites eventually enrolled in JOBS. The second section discusses how random assignment was conducted in each site and the implications of Riverside's pre-existing program regulations on the definition of the research groups in that site. The third section presents the baseline characteristics of JOBS enrollees in the sites: individuals' ages, welfare histories, reading and math achievement levels, number and ages of children, and other descriptive characteristics. The fourth section discusses program enrollees' perceived barriers to employment or program participation, expectations of the JOBS program, and views on employment as of random assignment. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the report's data sources and attendant sample sizes.