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


All welfare-to-work programs seek to increase self-sufficiency, although this concept may take on different meanings. Attaining self-sufficiency can mean ending welfare dependency, the primary goal of many welfare-to-work programs. As discussed in Chapter 5, all programs in the evaluation achieved this goal to some extent, although reductions in welfare receipt were small for some programs. Likewise, a program may promote self-sufficiency by increasing welfare recipients' reliance on earnings rather than welfare benefits. This goal may be accomplished by encouraging welfare recipients to combine work and welfare (at least in the short term) or by helping them to leave welfare for employment. As discussed in Chapter 4, most programs resulted in higher earnings, implying that they achieved this goal as well.

Single mothers must obtain adequate resources to be truly self-sufficient, however. Therefore, a more comprehensive measure of self-sufficiency is income. In the context of an experimental evaluation, a program successful at improving self-sufficiency would reduce welfare use but leave program group members with more income than they would have had in the absence of the program.

It should also be recognized that focusing solely on how programs affected sample members' income might lead to inaccurate conclusions about whether sample members benefited from enrolling in a welfare-to-work program. As will be explored at the end of the chapter, income from a spouse, partner, or other friends and family members may have contributed significantly toward the well-being of sample members and their children.