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

12/01/2001

Some studies have shown that greater income is related to better child outcomes, though other studies have found that increased income is most beneficial when it lifts families out of poverty, since families with income below the poverty line are not likely to have sufficient resources to meet their basic needs.(26) However, there is no apparent relationship in the COS sample between impacts on total combined income across years 1 through 5, or on family poverty status in year 5, and impacts on young children. First of all, there were no impacts on total combined income in the COS sample, so income cannot be the driving force behind either the favorable or the unfavorable impacts on children. With respect to impacts on poverty status at the five-year point, the only program to significantly influence poverty levels, the Riverside HCD program, reduced poverty and improved functioning among focal children. However, the other programs had no significant influences on poverty, providing little support for the hypothesis that changes in poverty status in year 5 of the follow-up are the driving force in impacts on children. It is important to note, however, that this measure of poverty status does not capture program impacts on cumulative poverty over the five-year period. Yet previous research suggests that children's cumulative poverty experiences are more important for their developmental outcomes than is their poverty status in any given year.(27) Hence, although these findings suggest that poverty at the time of the follow-up is not likely to account for the pattern of impacts on children, we can draw few inferences about the role of cumulative poverty in accounting for these impacts.