Further Progress, Persistent Constraints: Findings From a Second Survey of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. Placement Jobs:  Modest Wages in Service Occupations


Given the low skills and poor work history that define the population eligible for WtW services, it can be expected that the jobs in which WtW programs place participants will be relatively low-wage, low-skill occupations. The challenge facing grantees is to prepare participants for these positions so they can hold onto them, because in many instances even these low-wage jobs, if combined with food stamps and child care assistance, can improve participants' overall income. A secondary challenge is to help them move up in these occupations, to higher wages and perhaps more responsibility.

As could be expected, WtW placements are concentrated in service and administrative support occupations (Table IV.3).(9)  Almost 90 percent of WtW grantees listed one or more jobs classified as service occupations among the top 10 occupations in which they had placed participants. The specific service occupations listed (Table IV.4) most often included janitorial or maid service, home health, nursing, and other personal care aides, child care, and kitchen workers and other food facility staff (including cashiers and waitresses or waiters). About 76 percent of grantees reported administrative support occupations among their 10 most common placements. These are most often receptionists, teacher's aides, and stock clerks. With lower but still considerable frequency, grantees listed among their common placements positions in sales, as cashiers and retail clerks, and production occupations such as machine operators and assembly line workers.  

Occupational Category Percent of Grantees Having Placed WtW Participants in This Category Percent of Reported WtW Placements in This Categorya
Executive, Administrative, and Managerial Occupations 0.5 0.0
Natural Scientists and Mathematicians 0.5 0.0
Social Scientists, Social Workers, Religious Workers, and Lawyers 4.0 0.1
Teachers, Librarians, and Counselors 2.3 0.1
Registered Nurses, Pharmacists, Dietitians, Therapists, and Physician Assistants 2.5 0.0
Writers, Artists, Entertainers, and Athletes 0.5 0.0
Health Technologists and Technicians 3.3 0.2
Technologists and Technicians, Except Health 0.5 0.0
Marketing and Sales 66.4 13.9
Administrative Support Occupations, Including Clerical 76.3 24.7
Service Occupations 89.6 40.5
Agricultural, Forestry, and Fishing Occupations 8.6 0.7
Mechanics and Repairers 5.6 0.4
Construction and Extractive Occupations 11.1 1.3
Precision Production 6.8 0.6
Production Occupations 49.0 10.4
Transportation and Material Moving Occupations 12.1 0.7
Handlers, Equipment Cleaners, Helpers, and Laborers 30.6 4.7
Military Occupations 0.5 0.0
Miscellaneous Occupations 14.4 1.4
Source: National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Second Grantee Survey (November 1999- February 2000) and Standard Occupational Classification Manual (1980).

Note: Percentages are based on the responses of 335 grantees who provided information on the top 10 occupations in which they had placed WtW participants. These grantees represent 80.0 percent of the respondent sample for the second grantee survey. The occupations listed were coded using SOC codes at the four-digit level and then aggregated at the two-digit level to arrive at the information presented in this table.

a Figures less than .05 percent are rounded to zero.


Occupationa 1996 Weekly Median Earningsb 1998-2006 Projected U.S. Job Growthc
1. Janitors and Maids $270 - 300 0-9%
2. Health Aides, Psychiatric Aides, and Other Nursing Aides $292 21-35%
3. Cashiers $247 10-20%
4. Child Care Workers $250 21-35%
5. Cooks and Other Kitchen Workers $250 10-20%
6. Retail Sales Persons $396 10-20%
7. Receptionists $333 21-35%
8. Teacher Aides $315 21-35%
9. Food Service Workers, Including Waiters and Waitresses $270 10-20%
10. Stock Clerks $429 0-9%
Sources: National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program, Second Grantee Survey (November 1999- February 2000), Standard Occupational Classification Handbook (1980), and Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 1998-99" (http://stats.bls.gov, 03/08/2000).

a Occupational definitions are based on Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes, 1980 version. Although the SOC underwent a major revision in 1998, most government agencies did not begin using the revised classifications until January 1, 2000, so occupational information is not yet available based on the new codes.

b Figures are based on the typical earnings of full-time, salaried workers.

c Occupational job growth is coded based on expectations for overall employment growth through the year 2006. Overall average job growth is expected to be in the range of 10-20 percent.


The wages participants earn when they enter these jobs are certainly modest. Grantees reported that participants entering unsubsidized jobs earned an average of $6.81 per hour. In paid work experience and subsidized public sector jobs, participants were reported to be receiving $5.50 to $5.60 per hour. OJT placements have been running at an average of $6.47, probably reflecting the higher skill levels of the positions for which employers are willing to provide the level of training required for such arrangements.

The entry-level jobs that WtW participants enter require little education or training, and advancement is difficult. Typically, no more than a high school diploma is required and, even with little or no work experience, participants can be placed in jobs. Some occupations, like janitorial or food service jobs, have no specific education requirements. Opportunities for advancement tend to be limited, particularly in small firms; the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2000), for example, noted the barriers to advancement for janitorial workers in organizations where there is only a single maintenance worker. Some such jobs, of course, can lead to better pay for those who persist and for those who manage to gain more training or education.


1. The grantee survey provides aggregate measures of employment placements, but it does not provide a basis for judging whether participants are actually doing better or worse than they would have in the absence of the WtW programs.

2. Table IV.1 reports on grantees' responses to questions on overall program placement goals and progress, regardless of the funding sources used to support placement efforts and work activities. The pattern here is different from that shown earlier in Table II.7, which reported on the allocation of WtW grant funds to different program activities. Some employment activities are less prominent in Table II.7 than here, because some grantee organizations were already involved in providing those activities and did not have to devote WtW funds to them.

3. The remaining grantees — about 4 percent of all respondents — are using supported work placements but do not expect to make placements in unsubsidized jobs. Such a response could occur, for example, if a WtW grantee is working in collaboration with another organization that handles placement in unsubsidized jobs.

4. The estimate that 44 percent of WtW participants will be placed in unsubsidized employment may actually overstate the extent of projected progress of participants, since grantees are most likely reporting the number of placements they expect to make in each activity. Some grantees may incorporate into their projections the expectation that some people will be placed multiple times if the initial one proves unsuccessful. However, some individuals whom grantees will be unable to report as entering unsubsidized employment under the WtW grant program by the time it ends could be served further with other funds, and eventually be placed in a job.

5. We note that this is a rough and maximum measure since not all individuals who participate in WtW supported work activities will reach the point of placement in unsubsidized employment. However, if all participants in supported work activities were among those who enter unsubsidized employment, the rate of involvement in supported work activities as an interim step would be 37.7 divided by 62.3, or 61 percent.

6. Grantee responses suggest that two out of every three subsidized positions will be in the private sector, which is consistent with our field observations. Subsidies are not often needed to encourage government agencies and other public sector organizations to hire WtW participants; thus, these worksites are often used for work-experience placements. WtW wage subsidies are often offered and publicized, however, to encourage private employers to consider hiring WtW participants.

7. The WtW regulations themselves do not make participation mandatory, so the use of community service as a "sanction protection" is likely to be observed only where TANF work requirements are vigorously enforced.

8. The WtW regulations require that all participant work activities be paid. We describe community service positions as "nonwage" because WtW participants placed in such activities typically work in exchange for their cash benefits and do not receive additional compensation.

9. The survey asked grantees to list the 10 occupations in which they placed the most WtW participants. It also asked the average wage at which WtW participants had been placed in various types of employment activities.

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