Fixing to Change: A Best Practices Assessment of One-Stop Job Centers Working With Welfare Recipients. Whatcom County NetWork Consortium

 

The Whatcom County NetWork Consortium provided us with a sample of 97 welfare clients who had used one or more of the services of the Consortium during calendar 1996. In addition to basic client characteristics, these data included information about the number of services provided, length of participation, and employment and wages upon follow-up.

Generally, the client base for Whatcom County is better educated and has fewer dependents than some of the other sites. Only 21 percent of all clients lack a high school diploma or GED, and 55 percent have only one dependent. Slightly more than one-third had worked during the preceding 26 weeks, with the bulk of the racial/ethnic minority group comprised of Hispanic clients. Key observations based on the data provided by the Whatcom County NetWork Consortium include:

  • Services: About 46 percent of NetWork Consortium clients receive one service, while the rest of the clients receive an average of between three and four services. A significantly higher proportion of clients who have worked during the past 26 weeks receive multiple services, as do clients who are age 40 and older. On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of Hispanic clients receive only one service, and over 60 percent of clients with more than a high school education receive only one service.

Table 4
Whatcom County NetWork Consortium

    Services Length of Participation Follow-Up
  All TANF Single Multiple Ave # Multiple Shortest Quartile Longest Quartile Average Length Employed Average Wage
All TANF 100.0% 46.4% 53.6% 3.6 24.7% 24.7% 212.4 33.0% $ 8.61
Female 84.5% 46.3% 53.7% 3.7 24.4% 25.6% 219.1 29.3% $ 7.93
Single Parent 77.3% 44.0% 56.0% 3.6 24.0% 26.7% 220.7 29.3% $ 8.30
Worked in past 26 Weeks 36.1% 34.3% 65.7% 3.4 17.1% 31.4% 255.3 51.4% $ 9.34
Race/Ethnicity
White 79.4% 42.9% 57.1% 3.5 23.4% 26.0% 223.4 36.4% $ 9.00
African American 1.0% * * * * * * * *
Hispanic 15.5% 73.3% 26.7% 4.2 26.7% 13.3% 146.7 20.0% $ 5.50
Asian 2.1% * * * * * * * *
Native American 2.1% * * * * * * * *
Number of Dependents
1 54.6% 47.2% 52.8% 3.9 24.5% 26.4% 203.0 34.0% $ 8.20
2 24.7% 41.7% 58.3% 3.2 25.0% 20.8% 211.5 41.7% $ 8.72
3+ 20.7% 50.0% 50.0% 3.5 25.0% 25.0% 238.3 20.0% $ 10.17
Age
<19 8.2% 50.0% 50.0% 4.5 37.5% 25.0% 158.0 50.0% $ 5.88
19-24 34.0% 51.5% 48.5% 4.2 27.3% 18.2% 184.4 27.3% $ 8.47
25-39 44.3% 48.8% 51.2% 2.9 27.9% 20.9% 191.8 32.6% $ 9.79
40+ 13.4% 23.1% 76.9% 3.9 0.0% 53.9% 384.8 38.5% $ 7.73
Years of Education
<12 20.6% 40.0% 60.0% 4.0 25.0% 30.0% 211.3 30.0% $ 7.25
12 62.9% 45.9% 54.1% 3.4 21.3% 21.3% 205.1 37.7% $ 8.61
13-15 13.4% 61.5% 38.5% 3.8 46.2% 23.1% 206.5 23.1% $ 11.32
16+ 3.1% * * * * * * * *

*  Insufficient cell size for accurate reporting.

 

  • Length of Participation: On average, clients participate in NetWork Consortium services for a total of 212 days. While this would appear considerably longer than in other sites examined, it is important to note that the sampling frame here may not correspond to those in other sites.(37) Clients with recent work experience are disproportionately represented in the longest quartile of participation, as are clients age 40 and above, and clients with less than a high school diploma or GED. Clients with more than a high school education are over represented in the shortest quartile of participation, while clients age 40 and older, and those with recent work experience are under represented in the shortest quartile.
  • Follow-Up Employment: One-third of all NetWork Consortium clients reported being employed at the 90-day follow-up contact. For those clients with recent work experience and clients age 19 and below, the employment rate was over 50 percent, while for Hispanic clients and clients with three or more dependents, the employment rate was only 20 percent. Clients with higher levels of education also report lower rates of employment.
  • Follow-Up Wages: Wages for NetWork Consortium clients employed at follow-up (90 days after termination) average $8.61 per hour, considerably higher than other sites reviewed. However, this site also has substantially more hourly wage variation among different groups. Clients with post high school education and those with three or more dependents earn the highest hourly wages on average. Clients between ages 25 and 40, those with recent work experience, and white clients are all groups that earn wages that are higher than the average for all clients. Hispanic clients and clients age 18 and younger earn less than $6.00 per hour on average. Clients age 40 and over, and clients with less than a high school education average less than $8.00 per hour.

Which Clients Are Best Served by One-Stop Systems?

 

The preceding unique data sets seem to confirm the answers identified through focus group interviews, i.e., that welfare clients without a high school education, clients with large numbers of dependents, and clients who are older tend to have greater needs, use more services, take longer to progress through the system, and have less encouraging employment outcomes. While this information is not particularly new, the fact that One-Stop systems are tending to provide these clients with more services and assistance is encouraging, even if the employment outcomes are not entirely comparable with those of other clients. Of course, it should not go unnoted that the corollary of this pattern is also valuable information, that welfare clients with more education, fewer dependents, and young enough to be resilient in the job market are consuming relatively fewer services and are progressing faster through the system.

These data also confirm some of the difficulties facing One-Stop systems. Non-compliance seems to range from 10 percent to 17 percent. High proportions of welfare clients continue to drop out after the orientation session, and length of participation and employment rates seem to suggest that some groups of welfare recipients are either slipping through the cracks or are not responding well to the services provided. For example, Hispanic clients in the Washington State site have a high proportion of single service cases, a low average length of participation, and a low employment rate and wage rate upon follow-up. A similar pattern emerges for African American clients in Traverse City. Both of these cases involve only small samples of these subgroups and as such, limit our ability to generalize, but the presence of this type of pattern should be cause for caution.

The variation in the characteristics of the populations served across sites illustrates the need for flexibility in defining services and designing service systems that respond to unique local needs. Differences in local economies are very important in understanding the types of work skills necessary to be successful, yet differences in education levels, age distribution, number of dependents, and racial/ethnic diversity also persist, requiring careful attention to unique local design issues.

Footnotes

32.  These figures represent only a cross-section of client characteristics in time, and therefore would not capture the longitudinal effects of entrances of pregnant women who remain in the system for long periods of time. However, this observation was confirmed by Kenosha Job Center managers.

33.  One exception appears to be clients age 40 years and over, who have a lower number of case manager contacts. However, the small number of clients in this group makes it difficult to draw conclusions about this group.

34.  "Long term" is defined as 36 or more months of welfare participation during the preceeding 60 months.

35.  Note that the length of participation in the JOBS program is measured from entry until the end of calendar 1996.

36.  Note that "complex cases" were defined and targeted by the One-Stop.

37.  Note that in the case of the NetWork Consortium, the sample included clients served during calendar 1996, and was not limited to clients entering the system during that year.