How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Comparing the Effects of the LFA and HCD Programs on Income


So far, the chapter has made informal comparisons of the effects of employment- and education-focused programs on measures of income and self-sufficiency. This section summarizes the results of a more precise test of the relative effects of the LFA and HCD programs in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside on combined income over five years. (See Table 6.3.) Not surprisingly, there was no statistically significant LFA-HCD difference in combined income for the full samples in Atlanta and Grand Rapids. As noted above, both programs in each site led to similar effects on income: an increase for Atlanta LFA and HCD relative to the control group and a reduction for Grand Rapids LFA and HCD (Table 6.1).


Table 6.3
LFA-HCD Differences in Combined Income in Years 1 to 5

Site and Program

Sample Size LFA ($) HCD ($) Difference (Impact) p-value

Full impact sample

Atlanta 2,936 41,138 41,120 19 0.98
Grand Rapids 3,099 40,739 40,925 -186 0.81
Riverside 4,980 38,929 n/a n/a n/a

No high school diploma or GED

Atlanta 1,190 37,490 36,890 599 0.52
Grand Rapids 1,268 37,015 35,835 1,180 0.23
Riverside 3,182 37,030 35,924 1,106 0.17

High school diploma or GED

Atlanta 1,742 43,596 43,994 -397 0.70
Grand Rapids 1,827 43,249 44,489 -1,240 0.26
Riverside 1,798 41,433 n/a n/a n/a
SOURCE:В  MDRC calculations from state and county administrative records.
NOTES: See Appendix A.1.

The small overall difference in income generated by the two approaches masks larger differences for educational attainment subgroups. For high school nongraduates, the LFA program group had higher income than the HCD program group in each site. Although the difference was not statistically significant in any one site, a simple average of the impacts across the three sites indicates that the three LFA programs as a group resulted in nearly $1,000 more income over five years than the HCD programs. Moreover, this LFA-HCD difference for high school nongraduates was statistically significant. These results, along with the LFA programs' larger effects on employment and earnings, suggest that job search was a better approach for helping welfare recipients with low educational attainment than the type of mandatory adult basic education services provided by the HCD programs. It should be recalled, however, that both the LFA and HCD programs in Grand Rapids and Riverside decreased the income of nongraduates relative to the control group.

Among high school graduates and GED recipients, on the other hand, HCDs in Atlanta and Grand Rapids received more income over five years than LFAs. In neither site, however, was the difference statistically significant; the same result occurred when LFA and HCD impacts were averaged across the two sites.