The analysis of sample members' levels of participation in potentially employment-promoting activities and degree attainment extends the discussion of program dimensions in Chapter 1. Participation levels for program group members and the types of activities in which people participate demonstrate how successfully employment- and education-focused programs implemented their strategies for self-sufficiency. For the seven programs for which Five-Year Client Survey data are available, this chapter will determine how consistently, over the full five-year follow-up period, programs increased participation levels or degree receipt beyond what welfare recipients would be expected to attain had they never enrolled in a mandatory welfare-to-work program. Results for control group members represent the alternative outcomes, and program-control group differences indicate the effect, or impact, of each program. It should be stressed that a program's effect on participation depends on the levels attained by members of both the program group and the control group. In previous evaluations of welfare-to-work programs, from 20 to 40 percent of control group members enrolled in education and training programs on their own over a two-year follow-up period.(1) As will be shown, rates of self-initiated participation for control group members in this study, where the follow-up is extended to five years, is significantly higher. This is important, as programs with similar rates of participation for program group members may have very different impacts, depending on how frequently their respective control group members engaged in employment-related activities on their own.
During the first two years of follow-up, all 11 NEWWS programs generated moderate to large impacts on participation,(2) and it was expected that these impacts would remain in later years as programs continued to enroll in activities individuals who finished their initial assignment without gaining employment and, in some cases, individuals who left welfare and then returned.(3) For participants in LFA programs, the intended program path started with job search activities such as job club, intended to last approximately five weeks, followed by short-term education and training only for those unable to find employment. The intended HCD sequence was longer-term education and training, generally lasting up to two years, after which clients were expected to test their gained skills in the labor market through some type of job search activity.(4) The Portland program employed a unique, mixed strategy: Program staff assigned most individuals to job search first, while the more disadvantaged members of the caseload were often first referred to education and training activities. (See Chapter 1 for a more in-depth discussion of the intended assignment patterns in and the specific activities offered by each NEWWS program.) As noted in Chapter 1, in all sites the program focus varied somewhat over the five-year follow-up period. Most notably among the sites included in the five-year participation analysis, the three HCD programs became more employment-focused over time, assigning more individuals to job search and work experience activities. To the extent that this occurred, over time impacts on job search participation should increase in these programs. In the LFA programs, program group members who did not find employment through job search and work experience could have been assigned to education and training, and thus over time education and training impacts can be expected to increase in these programs. Furthermore, as the more job-ready left welfare for work, programs were left with a more disadvantaged caseload at the end of the follow-up period. Thus, while impacts were expected to remain over the entire follow-up period, it was also expected that the patterns of impacts might change as the types of activities in which program group members participated changed over time.
The end of the embargoes on control group members receiving mandatory welfare-to-work program services in Atlanta and Grand Rapids two of the seven sites examined in this chapter is another factor that may have influenced long-term program impacts on participation. An analysis of welfare receipt and participation among controls who became eligible for welfare-to-work program services shows that most control group members in these four programs never received such services during the five-year follow-up period.
Participation levels presented in the chapter are estimated from survey responses. The analysis includes all instances of participation after random assignment, including activities that occurred outside the welfare-to-work programs. Most commonly, self-initiated or nonprogram participation among program group members occurred after sample members left the welfare or program-mandatory rolls; less commonly, they might have participated in a self-initiated activity while still enrolled in a welfare-to-work program that their case manager could not approve as a program activity because the type or intensity of the activity did not meet the program's standards.(5) Sample members are considered to have participated in an employment-related activity if they attended for at least one day. Most participants attended for a much longer period.(6) The Five-Year Client Survey asked about participation since random assignment and in follow-up year 5. Thus, cumulative five-year and year 5 participation data are available.