How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Effects of Welfare-to-Work Approaches on Employment-Related and Domestic Abuse

12/01/2001

Current debates about welfare policy include whether or not and how to protect welfare recipients from abusive relationships. Although these welfare-to-work programs did not test the effects of time limits or special exemptions for victims of domestic abuse, increased employment and earnings may indirectly affect the incidence of employment-related or domestic abuse. On the one hand, increased employment may enhance self-esteem and encourage program group members to leave abusive relationships, or increased hours of employment may simply reduce contact with intimate partners or family members who are abusive or remove individuals from abusive situations. On the other hand, increased employment may exacerbate abuse that is occurring in a current relationship as a partner or spouse negatively or violently reacts to the enhanced independence and self-sufficiency that accompanies employment.(13) In addition, because welfare benefits are replaced by earned income, increased employment in the context of these programs may not lead to increased personal resources or, possibly, the ability to leave an abusive relationship.

As noted, information about job-related and domestic abuse was collected only for respondents in the Child Outcomes Study sample in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside. Employment-related abuse is measured over a respondent's lifetime. However, because information about the timing of domestic abuse is available, these outcomes are presented for two time periods  at any time during a respondent's life and in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview.

Figure 9.3 shows the proportion of control group members who experienced domestic abuse at any time in their life (for example, had been threatened, yelled at, insulted, or physically harmed) and who experienced domestic abuse by an intimate partner in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview. Nearly 50 to 70 percent of control group members reported ever being abused. Control group rates of any domestic abuse by intimate partners in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview ranged from 15 to 20 percent. This is roughly 9 percentage points lower than the abuse rates documented for long-term recipients with young school-age children in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) and for recipients and applicants in Florida's Family Transition Program (FTP).(14) However, state and national estimates suggest that approximately 20 percent of the welfare population currently experiences domestic abuse and from 40 to 70 percent experienced domestic abuse at any time during their life.(15)

Figure 9.3
Control Group Levels of Having Experienced Any Domestic Abuse

Control Group Levels of Having Experienced Any Domestic Abuse

SOURCE: MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES: See Appendix A.2.
Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.

Impacts on employment-related abuse and domestic abuse that occurred at any time during a respondent's life are shown in Table 9.5. Less that 10 percent of control group members reported experiencing any job harassment (being interrupted by phone or in person by someone) and up to approximately 30 percent reported experiencing job deterrence (being forced to quit or prevented from taking a job). The first three panels of Table 9.5 show that none of the programs in the three sites affected reports of any lifetime experience of having been discouraged from taking a job, harassed while holding a job, or deterred from getting a job. The relatively low levels and lack of impacts on these outcomes are quite encouraging given recent literature that finds that conflicts with intimate partners or others serve as an important barrier to work faced by former welfare recipients.(16) Table 9.5 also shows reported any lifetime experience of domestic abuse. With one exception, none of programs affected reports of any lifetime experience of domestic abuse. Program group members in the Grand Rapids LFA program were 11 percentage points, or 17 percent, more likely to report any lifetime experience of domestic abuse. Further analyses suggest that this experience occurred before random assignment or during the first few years of follow-up and, for the most part, was nonphysical abuse by someone other than an intimate partner, such as a friend or family member (not shown). There were significant differences between the LFA and HCD program approaches on this outcome in Grand Rapids.

 

Table 9.5
Impacts on Any Lifetime Experience of Employment-Related or Domestic Abuse

Site and Program

Sample Size Program Group (%) Control Group (%) Difference (Impact) Percentage Change (%)

Any lifetime experience of having been discouraged from taking a job a

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 573 29.1 29.6 -0.5 -1.8
Atlanta Human Capital Development 646 30.7 29.6 1.0 3.5
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 417 36.1 39.5 -3.4 -8.6
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 398 33.0 39.5 -6.5 -16.4
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 502 36.7 36.5 0.2 0.6
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 317 31.6 36.7 -5.1 -13.9
Riverside Human Capital Development 418 34.5 36.7 -2.2 -6.1

Any lifetime experience of having been harassed while holding a job a

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 565 6.0 8.1 -2.1 -25.6
Atlanta Human Capital Development 639 6.2 8.1 -1.9 -23.9
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 415 8.5 9.9 -1.4 -14.1
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 398 8.0 9.9 -1.9 -19.4
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 496 9.9 8.6 1.3 15.3
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 311 11.3 7.2 4.1 56.7
Riverside Human Capital Development 413 7.2 7.2 -0.1 -0.8

Any lifetime experience of having been deterred from getting or holding a job a

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 575 20.9 20.8 0.1 0.4
Atlanta Human Capital Development 654 20.2 20.8 -0.6 -3.1
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 417 21.2 29.0 -7.8* -26.8
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 400 23.4 29.0 -5.6 -19.3
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 501 27.0 24.6 2.3 9.5
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 315 23.2 23.7 -0.5 -2.1
Riverside Human Capital Development 415 24.5 23.7 0.8 3.6

Any lifetime experience of domestic abuse

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 541 51.5 49.6 1.9 3.8
Atlanta Human Capital Development 610 48.7 49.6 -1.0 -1.9
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 396 75.8 65.0 10.8** 16.6
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 379 62.8 65.0 -2.2 -3.5
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 471 61.4 65.1 -3.7 -5.7
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 289 55.8 61.2 -5.4 -8.8
Riverside Human Capital Development 380 64.0 61.2 2.8 4.6

SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES:  See Appendix A.2.
Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.
aEmployment-related abuse, including job discouragement, job harassment, and job deterrence, is measured over a respondents lifetime. Some examples of employment-related abuse are as follows: someone's trying to discourage the respondent from finding a job or going to work at any time in her life would be considered job discouragement; the respondent's being harassed at her workplace over the telephone and/or in person at any time in her life would be considered job harassment; someone's causing the respondent to quit or lose a job at any time in her life would be considered job deterrence.

Table 9.6 shows impacts on measures of domestic abuse in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview. Although programs had few effects on measures of employment-related or domestic abuse that occurred at any point in a respondent's life, the welfare-to-work programs did affect one important aspect of the quality of more recent relationships. In particular, in all of the LFA and HCD programs, program group members reported fewer incidences of experiencing physical domestic abuse (for example, hitting) during the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview, by 3 to 6 percentage points, than control group members, and nearly all of these program-control group differences achieved or approached statistical significance.(17)

 

Table 9.6
Impacts on Experiences of Domestic Abuse in the Year Prior to the Five-Year Follow-Up Interview

Site and Program

Sample Size Program Group (%) Control Group (%) Difference (Impact) Percentage Change (%)

Experienced any abuse in prior year

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 541 21.4 20.1 1.3 6.4
Atlanta Human Capital Development 610 16.4 20.1 -3.7 -18.3
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 396 24.5 22.2 2.3 10.2
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 379 17.5 22.2 -4.7 -21.2
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 471 15.6 19.2 -3.5 -18.4
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 289 16.0 18.9 -2.9 -15.6
Riverside Human Capital Development 380 19.2 18.9 0.3 1.4

Experienced physical abuse in prior year

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 541 3.7 7.4 -3.7** -50.2
Atlanta Human Capital Development 610 4.4 7.4 -2.9 -39.7
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 396 10.9 13.7 -2.8 -20.4
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 379 7.9 13.7 -5.8* -42.4
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 471 7.5 13.1 -5.6** -42.5
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 289 6.0 12.3 -6.3** -51.4
Riverside Human Capital Development 380 7.0 12.3 -5.2 -42.6

Experienced nonphysical abuse in prior year

Atlanta Labor Force Attachment 541 21.0 19.7 1.3 6.6
Atlanta Human Capital Development 610 15.8 19.7 -3.9 -20.0
Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment 396 24.5 21.7 2.8 13.0
Grand Rapids Human Capital Development 379 17.5 21.7 -4.2 -19.2
Riverside Labor Force Attachment 471 15.6 18.8 -3.2 -16.9
Lacked high school diploma or basic skills 289 16.0 18.4 -2.4 -13.0
Riverside Human Capital Development 380 19.2 18.4 0.9 4.7

SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES:  See Appendix A.2.
Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.
Physical abuse and nonphysical abuse are not mutually exclusive.