Welfare-to-work programs can directly increase self-sufficiency by increasing employment and decreasing welfare receipt. They may also increase people's income by helping them qualify for or find relatively well-paying jobs with benefits. The amount of effort that program staff devote to helping recipients who enter employment apply for the EITC, maintain eligibility for Food Stamps, and obtain medical coverage and child care assistance may also help participants maintain or increase their income (or forgo costly expenditures for medical care and other necessities). Programs may not increase income, however, if they encourage people to take jobs that pay less than welfare, impose financial sanctions on those who have difficulty in finding work, or induce them to leave welfare without employment.
Welfare-to-work programs can also indirectly affect self-sufficiency and income by changing welfare recipients' social and family networks once they begin working. For example, welfare recipients who work for pay may be more likely to find spouses or partners who work, or may find job leads for other members of their household, thereby increasing the household's income and economic security. Increases in employment and income may also improve people's ability to purchase goods (like cars and clothing) and services (like reliable day care and health care) that support job retention and advancement and may help them obtain credit or save for the future. Alternatively, welfare-to-work programs that increase unstable employment or encourage recipients to leave welfare without employment may lead to immediate hardship and decrease people's ability to maintain the social and material supports needed to find employment in the future. Later chapters in this report discuss the effects of the programs on marriage, household composition, and material hardship.