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

12/01/2001

Both programs in Riverside produced larger employment effects for mothers of adolescents than programs in the other sites. As mentioned above, the Riverside programs also produced unfavorable effects on the academic outcomes of adolescents. One possible explanation is that as mothers' employment increased, especially full-time employment, adolescents were less likely to be supervised, giving them more freedom to engage in risk-taking behaviors. Closer inspection of the employment impacts shows that the Grand Rapids and Riverside programs similarly had larger employment effects during the first year of the follow-up than the Atlanta and Portland programs. Unfortunately, actual measures of supervision were not collected in the survey. Nonetheless, unfavorable academic outcomes during the last few years of the follow-up period may be associated with the extent of mothers' employment early in the follow-up period.

A review of effects on other important family outcomes such as income and family structure suggests that there are other possible reasons why adolescents fared poorly on academic outcomes because of these welfare-to-work programs, especially since nearly all of the programs increased employment but did not produce similarly unfavorable effects on adolescent outcomes. Mothers in the Grand Rapids and Riverside programs also experienced decreased income from earnings and welfare benefits during the last three years of the follow-up period. Adolescents may have taken on more responsibility contributing to household resources, increasing their own employment in response to having less income in the household. Employment during adolescence, particularly if it is more than 20 hours per week, is associated with difficulty in school.(35) In addition, and interestingly, the two programs that produced the most unfavorable effects on adolescents  the Grand Rapids LFA program and the Riverside HCD program  also increased the likelihood that these adolescents' mothers were married and living with a spouse at the five-year follow-up point (not shown). Adolescent children are especially vulnerable to family changes, such as separation, divorce, and marriage.(36)