How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Adolescents

12/01/2001

1. Effects on Mothers' Economic Outcomes

Impacts are smaller and more negative in Atlanta and Grand Rapids, similar in Riverside, and more positive in Portland for survey sample respondents of adolescents (aged 10 or over at time of study entry), than for the client survey sample.(26) The effect of mothers' employment may be particularly pronounced for adolescents by, for example, providing a positive role model and encouraging adolescents to prepare for the labor force as young adults. In addition, adolescents in low-income families may take on additional responsibilities at home, such as chores, or may engage in their own employment to help support their family. These activities could have either positive or negative consequences for adolescent outcomes. Finally, adolescents might be harmed by mothers' increased employment because it may translate to lack of supervision during a time when many may initiate risk-taking behaviors. On the other hand, supervised and high-quality out-of-school programs may have particularly beneficial effects for adolescents.(27)

2. Effects on Child Outcomes

Outcomes and impacts for children who were adolescents at study entry (aged 15 to 23 at the five-year follow-up), are shown in Table 11.6. Rates of grade retention during the last three years of follow-up varied considerably across sites among adolescents in the control group, from 4 percent in Portland and Riverside to 17 percent in Atlanta. Dropout rates also varied considerably, from 17 percent in Riverside to 31 percent in Portland. These dropout rates are higher than the dropout rates of 10th to 12th graders for a national sample of 15-to -24-year olds in families at the bottom 20 percent of income levels.(28) Approximately 15 to 23 percent of adolescents in the control group were ever suspended or expelled during the last three years of follow-up. Unsurprisingly, these rates of grade retention, suspensions and expulsions, and dropping out are considerably higher for adolescents than for younger children.

 

Table 11.6
Impacts on Child Outcomes During Years 3 to 5 for Adolescents at Random Assignment
(Aged 15 to 23 at the Five-Year Follow-Up)

Site and Program

Sample Size Program Group (%) Control Group (%) Difference (Impact) Effect Size

Ever repeated a grade

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 834 15.2 17.2 -1.9 -0.05
Atlanta Human Capital Development 938 15.5 17.2 -1.6 -0.04
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 890 11.7 7.5 4.2** 0.16
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 919 11.8 7.5 4.3** 0.16
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1126 7.1 4.2 2.9** 0.14
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 638 7.0 4.3 2.8 0.13
Riverside Human Capital Development 657 8.2 4.3 3.9** 0.18
Portland 406 5.6 4.4 1.2 0.06

Ever suspended or expelled

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 836 16.3 23.2 -6.8** -0.16
Atlanta Human Capital Development 938 21.3 23.2 -1.9 -0.05
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 891 21.3 20.0 1.3 0.03
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 924 18.2 20.0 -1.8 -0.05
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1120 15.4 15.0 0.3 0.01
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 634 13.3 16.6 -3.3 -0.09
Riverside Human Capital Development 652 17.5 16.6 0.9 0.02
Portland 395 16.9 18.6 -1.7 -0.04

Ever dropped out of schoola

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 836 22.8 24.1 -1.3 -0.03
Atlanta Human Capital Development 937 26.1 24.1 2.0 0.05
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 899 29.5 26.0 3.5 0.08
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 934 29.1 26.0 3.1 0.07
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1122 18.5 17.9 0.6 0.01
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 635 18.2 17.3 0.9 0.02
Riverside Human Capital Development 657 22.8 17.3 5.4* 0.14
Portland 409 36.4 31.2 5.2 0.11

Attended a special class for physical, emotional, or mental conditionb

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 835 5.0 4.4 0.6 0.04
Atlanta Human Capital Development 939 3.9 4.4 -0.4 -0.02
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 894 11.5 8.5 3.0 0.10
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 928 11.0 8.5 2.5 0.09
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1128 7.3 5.0 2.2 0.10
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 640 7.5 3.9 3.6* 0.18
Riverside Human Capital Development 660 6.9 3.9 3.0* 0.15
Portland 407 8.0 6.4 1.6 0.06

Had a physical, emotional, or mental condition that impeded on mother's ability to go to work or schoolb

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 836 2.3 3.0 -0.7 -0.04
Atlanta Human Capital Development 939 2.9 3.0 -0.1 -0.00
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 900 5.7 3.9 1.8 0.09
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 943 4.3 3.9 0.4 0.02
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1133 3.4 3.2 0.2 0.01
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 644 2.8 3.1 -0.2 -0.01
Riverside Human Capital Development 663 6.2 3.1 3.1* 0.17
Portland 409 4.5 2.6 1.8 0.10

Had a physical, emotional, or mental condition that required frequent medical attentionb

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 835 5.3 4.6 0.6 0.03
Atlanta Human Capital Development 939 3.8 4.6 -0.8 -0.04
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 899 6.6 4.3 2.3 0.11
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 941 4.7 4.3 0.4 0.02
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1134 3.4 6.3 -2.8** -0.12
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 644 2.8 5.4 -2.6* -0.11
Riverside Human Capital Development 664 3.8 5.4 -1.6 -0.07
Portland 409 4.5 4.9 -0.4 -0.02

Ever had accident, injury, or poisoning that required an emergency room visit

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 822 10.8 12.0 -1.2 -0.04
Atlanta Human Capital Development 921 11.8 12.0 -0.2 -0.01
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 873 14.1 17.4 -3.2 -0.09
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 910 17.3 17.4 -0.1 -0.00
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1104 15.1 16.9 -1.8 -0.05
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 628 10.8 13.3 -2.5 -0.07
Riverside Human Capital Development 648 15.9 13.3 2.6 0.08
Portland 397 23.5 20.1 3.4 0.09

Did not live with mother because she could not care for child

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 836 4.3 3.9 0.4 0.02
Atlanta Human Capital Development 937 4.1 3.9 0.2 0.01
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 900 3.8 4.6 -0.9 -0.04
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 943 6.4 4.6 1.7 0.08
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1134 8.1 5.4 2.7* 0.12
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 644 7.7 4.8 2.9 0.13
Riverside Human Capital Development 664 3.3 4.8 -1.5 -0.07
Portland 409 7.9 10.1 -2.2 -0.08

Ever had a baby as a teenc

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 829 16.9 21.3 -4.5 -0.11
Atlanta Human Capital Development 936 22.3 21.3 0.9 0.02
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 893 19.6 19.7 -0.2 -0.00
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 923 20.6 19.7 0.8 0.02
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 1123 15.4 13.0 2.4 0.07
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 637 19.4 13.2 6.2** 0.18
Riverside Human Capital Development 658 16.9 13.2 3.7 0.11
Portland 399 13.8 17.2 -3.4 -0.10
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES:  See Appendix A.2
Standard errors have been adjusted to account for the presence of multiple siblings within a family.
Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.
a Measures whether the child dropped out of school at any point during the child's lifetime.
b Refers to conditions that were current at the time the survey was administered.
c Measures whether the child had a baby while a teenager at any point during the five-year follow-up period.

One important outcome for adolescents, especially for female adolescents, is teen childbearing, which is correlated with a decreased likelihood of completing schooling and of succeeding in the labor market and an increased likelihood of receiving public assistance. Furthermore, being raised by a teen mother may have negative consequences on children's development.(29) Approximately 13 to 21 percent of adolescents in the NEWWS sample ever had a baby as a teen.(30) These rates are slightly lower when the sample of adolescents is restricted to those aged 10 or over at random assignment but under age 19 at the five-year follow-up (7 to 15 percent; not shown). These are double the national rates, though much of the difference is likely due to the fact that the national figures are not restricted to a low-income or welfare sample.(31) The national birth rate in 1998 for teens aged 15 to 19 was 5 percent.(32) In 1997, teen birth rates for females aged 15 to 19 were 5.7 percent in California, 6.7 percent in Georgia, 4.4 percent in Michigan, and 4.7 percent in Oregon.(33)

The welfare-to-work programs examined in this chapter produced the most effects on outcomes for adolescents. The effects were generally unfavorable in the Grand Rapids and Riverside programs, especially the Riverside HCD program. Both programs in Grand Rapids and both programs in Riverside increased grade repetition by 3 percentage points (Riverside LFA) to 4 percentage points (Grand Rapids HCD). These unfavorable impacts are of concern because children who repeat a grade in high school may be more likely to drop out of school and, as previously noted, completed education is highly correlated with future labor force participation.

In addition to increasing grade repetition, the Riverside HCD program increased the likelihood that an adolescent would drop out of school, increased the percentage of adolescents who attended a special class because of a physical, emotional, or mental condition, and increased the percentage who had a physical, emotional, or mental condition that demanded a lot of the respondents' time. It also increased the percentage of adolescents who were teen parents, an effect that approached statistical significance (p = .18).

Similar unfavorable effects were not found in Atlanta or in Portland. In fact, the Atlanta LFA program decreased suspensions or expulsions by almost 7 percentage points and decreased teenage childbearing by nearly 5 percentage points (with the latter effect approaching statistical significance at p = .11).

Comparisons of NEWWS effects with effects found in other recent studies are discussed in the accompanying text box.