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


All three LFA programs in NEWWS were job search first programs, for all individuals who were enrolled. Compared with what would have happened in the absence of these programs, the LFA programs increased participation in job search  to quite a large degree  for both graduates and nongraduates. For the most part, these programs did not increase education and training participation or degree receipt, although one program  Atlanta LFA  increased basic education participation for both subgroups and increased trade license or certificate receipt for graduates.

All HCD programs were education-focused, although activity assignments differed depending on the educational background and skills level of enrollees. Sample members without a high school diploma or GED  as well as some sample members who had this credential but had low scores on math or reading achievement tests  were most often assigned to basic education, and basic education participation rates for nongraduates were much higher than control group rates in all three programs. The two programs that enrolled graduates in HCD programs also increased their participation in this activity, although to a lesser degree. The HCD programs were more likely than the LFA programs to result in nongraduates obtaining a high school diploma or GED at some point during the follow-up period. For those with a high school diploma or GED, assignments to and participation in vocational training were most common, although only one of the two programs enrolling graduates increased participation in this activity relative to control group levels. The difference in assignment patterns for graduate and nongraduate sample members is likely explained by the fact that a high school diploma or GED, or in some cases a certain score on a reading or math achievement test, is required for entry into most vocational training programs. For the graduate subgroup, only the Atlanta HCD program resulted in more individuals obtaining an education or training credential (usually a trade license or certificate). Notably, the Atlanta LFA program had the same effect for this subgroup.

As is clear from the findings presented in this chapter, the Portland program was unique among these seven NEWWS programs in that program staff employed a mixed strategy, using both job search and short-term education and training programs as a first activity, to enhance individuals' self-sufficiency. Program staff encouraged short-term education and training as a means of enhancing employability  specifically, as a means of obtaining jobs with higher wages and benefits  for all sample members, both graduates and nongraduates. As a result, the program increased participation in job search for the full sample and for both subgroups, as well as increasing participation in education activities across both subgroups. For nongraduates, increases in education and training participation led to an increase, relative to control group levels, in the percentage of sample members who received a high school diploma or GED and a trade license or certificate during the follow-up period.

All seven programs generated impacts on participation of a sufficient magnitude to verify that the programs studied provided a good test of the relative effectiveness of different welfare-to-work program models, including the side-by-side test of LFA and HCD programs in the three sites that simultaneously operated both program types. The subsequent chapters in this report examine the economic effects of all 11 NEWWS programs on adults, as well as on households and children, that were produced by these changes in employment-promoting activities and in degree receipt.


1.  See, for example, Riccio, Friedlander, and Freedman, 1994, Table 2.4; Kemple, Friedlander, and Fellerath, 1995, Table 3.5; Hamilton and Friedlander, 1989, Table 3.1.

2.  See Freedman et al., 2000a, for details.

3.  An awareness of welfare caseload dynamics is essential in understanding and interpreting welfare-to-work program participation rates. A number of studies have shown that many welfare recipients cycle on and off the welfare rolls, often leaving without any special intervention. For example, some people get jobs on their own or get married. To the extent that this occurs among individuals mandated for a welfare-to-work program before they enter their first program activity, a site's overall participation rate will be lowered. This rate will be further lowered to the extent that individuals obtain part-time employment, which, if it involves a specified number of hours per week, excuses clients from a program participation requirement. At the same time, welfare-to-work programs may induce some of these behavioral changes. For example, a desire to avoid a program participation requirement may lead some individuals to find employment or leave welfare sooner than they otherwise would have done, again lowering a site's participation rate if these actions are taken prior to starting an activity. Alternatively, some individuals might feel encouraged to remain on welfare longer to take advantage of a program's opportunities for education and training. Thus, participation rates, whether high or low, are influenced by normal welfare caseload turnover as well as by a welfare-to-work program's intervention. In any case, given welfare dynamics, participation rates in these programs should never be expected to reach 100 percent.

4.  See Hamilton et al., 1997, Figure 3.1, Figure 3.2, and pp. 39-44, for a discussion of the sequencing of activities in both LFA and HCD programs.

5.  In the benefit-cost analysis in Chapter 13, activities outside the programs are called "out-of-program" activities.

6.  For detailed descriptions of the length and intensity of participation, including total hours of participation, in all 11 NEWWS programs, see the following: Hamilton et al., 1997, Tables 5.5 and 6.4 (for the LFA and HCD programs in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside); Scrivener et al., 1998, Table 3.4 (for Portland); Storto et al., 2000, Table 2.2 (for Oklahoma City); Farrell, 2000, Table 3.5 (for Detroit); and Scrivener and Walter, 2001, Table 3.4 for Columbus.

7.  See Freedman et al., 2000a, Appendix A.1, for complete two-year participation rates and impacts.

8.  The estimates of the proportion of control group members in Atlanta and Grand Rapids who were "exposed" to welfare-to-work program services after embargoes on such services were lifted are considered upper-bound ones for a number of reasons, but primarily because of client survey data limitations regarding the timing of participation. The Five-Year Client Survey did not ask respondents to specify the exact month (as opposed to year) when they participated in various activities, so months of post-embargo welfare receipt cannot be lined up directly with participation spells. The method of calculating these estimates thus erred on the side of counting as "exposure" some participation that, in fact, may have occurred while an individual was no longer receiving welfare.

9.  "Post-secondary education" includes courses taken at community colleges or two-year and four-year colleges, including  but not limited to  courses taken for credit toward an associate's or bachelor's degree. "Vocational training" includes classes taken for training in a specific job, trade, or occupation, and does not include courses taken at community colleges or two-year and four-year colleges.

10.  Five-year participation rates for program and control group members subject to mandatory welfare-to-work programs are generally not available, and thus statistics comparable to those presented in this section largely do not exist. Five-year participation rates were calculated in an evaluation of San Diego's Saturated Work Initiative Model (SWIM), a program operated in the mid to late 1980s. Among single parents in SWIM (comparable to the NEWWS samples analyzed in this report), 66 percent of program group members participated in activities intended to increase their employment during a five-year follow-up compared with 42 percent of controls, resulting in an impact of 24 percentage points. This measure includes participation in welfare-to-work program activities as well as self-initiated participation. However, control group members became mandatory for California's GAIN welfare-to-work program after three years if they were still receiving welfare, so SWIM's estimates of control group participation levels and participation impacts are not directly comparable to those in most NEWWS sites.

11.  Specifically, the Atlanta HCD program's five-year job search participation rate was 3.6 times greater than its two-year job search participation rate. In the Grand Rapids and Riverside HCD programs, five-year job search participation rates were 2.9 and 2.7 times greater, respectively, than two-year rates.

12.  For both subgroups, the impacts on participation in any activity are just above the threshold for statistical significance. The sample sizes for these subgroups, including program and control group members, are small: The nongraduate subgroup consists of only 163 sample members, while the graduate subgroup consists of 334 sample members.

13.  Chapter 4 in Bos et al., 2001, presents a synthesis of findings related to this topic and of research on welfare populations. In particular, see Mincer, 1974; Polachek and Siebert, 1993; and Sum, Taggart, and Fogg, 1995.

14.  The 9.1 percentage point increase has a p-value of .22, and the lack of statistical significance may be a product of small sample size (see footnote 12).

15.  For a more detailed discussion of the types of training programs offered by the Portland program, and two-year participation rates and impacts, see Scrivener et al., 1998, Chapter 3.

16.  Among nongraduate sample members who participated in basic education during an initial two-year follow-up period, those who went on to participate in post-secondary education or training had an additional $1,542 in earnings in the third year of follow-up compared with those who participated only in basic education and did not go on to participate in post-secondary education or training (Bos et al., 2001, Table 6.4).