Evaluating Two Welfare-to-Work Program Approaches: Two-Year Findings on the Labor Force Attachment and Human Capital Development Programs in Three Sites. Clients' Expectations for and Perceptions of JOBS

12/01/1997

At orientation, prior to hearing about the services offered by the JOBS program and the results of the random assignment process, sample members were asked to complete a survey on barriers to and expectations for employment and participation in the JOBS program. Selected measures from this survey appear in Table 2.2.

 

Table 2.2
Attitudes and Opinions of JOBS Enrollees, by Site
Attitude or Opinion Atlanta Grand Rapids Riverside
Client-reported barriers to welfare-to-work program participation
Percent who agreed or agreed a lot that they could not go to a school or job training program right now forthe following reasons:
  • No way to get there every day
40.6 36.8 39.5
  • Cannot afford child care
57.8 69.5 67.3
  • Health or emotional problem
21.1 19.8 18.7
  • Child or family member with a health or emotional problem
18.5 19.5 17.8
  • Too many family problems
28.4 30.4 28.6
  • Fear of leaving children in day care or with a babysitter
17.7 29.9 29.5
  • Already has too much to do during the day
15.8 24.2 18.7
  • At least one of the above
73.9 81.2 76.7
Client-reported barriers to employment
Percent who agreed or agreed a lot that they could not get a job right now for the following reasons:
  • Too many family problems for full- or part-time work
16.0 18.7 22.0
  • Prefers to take care of family full time
20.3 30.8 30.6
  • No available trusted person to take care of children
20.2 26.5 27.8
  • Would miss children too much
8.2 14.0 13.6
  • At least one of the above
80.0 83.8 81.3
Client-reported preferred welfare-to-work program components and expectations
regarding the effectiveness of the components
Given the choices of going to school to study basic reading and math, going to a program to get help looking for a job, or going to school to learn a job skill, percent who would prefer to:
  • Go to school to learn a job skill
42.3 56.4 60.8
  • Go to a program to get help looking for a job
40.5 25.0 23.0
  • Go to school to study basic reading and math
6.3 9.8 7.5
Percent who agreed or agreed a lot that the following would help them get a good job:
  • Going to a job training program
86.3 79.4 88.3
  • Going to a program to get help looking for a job
72.9 57.2 67.3
  • Going to a school that teaches basic reading and math
67.9 55.3 57.8
  • None of these strategies
5.4 9.6 5.7
Client-reported expectations regarding employment
Percent who agreed or agreed a lot that it will probably take more than a year to get a full-time job and get off welfare 47.3 56.3 47.9
Percent who would probably take a full-time job today if the job paid less than or the same as welfare 51.2 53.3 52.9
If someone offered client a full-time job with full medical benefits, minimum amount per hour at which the client would take the job
  • Mean $
7.12 7.00 7.71
  • Median $
6.00 6.00 7.00
If someone offered client a full-time job with no medical benefits, minimum amount per hour at which the client would take the job
  • Mean $
9.29 9.48 10.74
  • Median $
7.00 8.00 10.00
 
Sample size 2,218 1,454 3,281
SOURCE: MDRC calculations from Private Opinion Survey data.

Approximately 77 percent of JOBS enrollees anticipated at least one obstacle to welfare-to-work participation, with between 58 and 70 percent reporting that the cost of child care would prevent them from attending program activities. Lack of transportation was another commonly perceived barrier to participation, with 37 to 41 percent of enrollees reporting that this was a barrier. Health and emotional problems were also perceived as barriers to participation; between 19 and 21 percent reported that they could not participate in a welfare-to-work program because they themselves suffered from a health or emotional problem. Furthermore, 18 to 20 percent reported that they could not participate because a family member was suffering from a health or emotional problem.

Over 80 percent of JOBS enrollees in each site reported a barrier to employment. The two most commonly reported reasons why individuals felt that they could not get a job at the time were that they preferred to take care of their family full time (reported by 20 to 31 percent of the sample members) and that they had no available trusted person to take care of their children (reported by 20 to 28 percent of the sample members).

Respondents were also asked in which of three types of welfare-to-work activities they would prefer to participate. Of the three choices provided, job training was the preference of the largest number of individuals, ranging from 42 percent in Atlanta to 61 percent in Riverside. Respondents' second choice was a program to get help looking for a job, with 23 to 41 percent of respondents preferring such a program. Least favored was basic education, with 6 to 10 percent of respondents choosing school (to learn basic reading and math) as the preferred activity.

Many sample members, however, felt that these types of program activities would help them get a good job, even if some of the activities were not their first preference. Across the three sites, 79 to 88 percent of respondents reported that a job training program would help them find a good job; between 57 and 73 percent of respondents thought that a program to help them look for a job would be helpful; and, while lowest in popularity, over half of the respondents thought a basic education program would help them secure a good job, ranging from 55 percent in Grand Rapids to 68 percent in Atlanta.

About half of the respondents believed that it would probably take them over a year to find full-time employment and leave welfare, ranging from 47 percent of enrollees in Atlanta to 56 percent in Grand Rapids. Half agreed that they would take a full-time job if the job paid the same as (or, in some cases, less than) welfare. When asked the minimum wage at which the respondent would take a full-time job, with medical benefits, the median response was $6 per hour in Atlanta and Grand Rapids and $7 per hour in Riverside. When asked the minimum acceptable wage for a full-time job which did not offer medical benefits, the median response was $7 per hour in Atlanta, $8 per hour in Grand Rapids, and $10 per hour in Riverside. In the three sites, the provision of full medical benefits represented approximately $2.25, on average, of JOBS enrollees' hourly reservation wages.