The policies followed in the welfare-to-work programs examined in this report are not expected to directly affect, in this case increase or preserve, the likelihood of marriage.(10) Given the effects on economic outcomes such as employment, earnings, and income, how may these welfare-to-work programs affect the marital status of survey respondents? Increased employment may increase the likelihood of marriage by expanding a single mother's social network or increasing her self-esteem, and, perhaps, her attractiveness to a potential partner. Or increased employment may decrease the likelihood of marriage because less time is available to search for a partner or socialize with a partner.(11)Income may also affect marriage in distinct ways by decreasing financial pressure to get married or, perhaps, by increasing the financial security of a respondent who would otherwise have less family income.
At the time of study entry all survey respondents were single mothers with children. How many of these mothers got married in the absence of the program? Figure 9.1 shows control group levels of marriage for the four survey sites using the sample of respondents who were in both the two-year and five-year surveys. This figure shows that across all sites between 8 percent and just over 20 percent of survey respondents reported being married at either the two-year or the five-year follow-up. This outcome was created to roughly capture a measure of "ever being married" during a five-year time period. This figure also shows that in Atlanta and Portland the majority of respondents in the control group who got married did so relatively late in the follow-up period, at some time during the last three years (that is, they were married at the five-year follow-up but not married at the two-year follow-up).
Control Group Levels of Marriage
SOURCE: MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES: See Appendix A.2.
Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.
Table 9.2 shows that none of these welfare-to-work programs had an impact on marriage. Although all programs showed a consistent pattern of increasing cohabitation, only the Riverside LFA program increased cohabitation significantly ¯ by 4.6 percentage points, or 43 percent. It may be the case that more program group members are engaging in less-formal relationships than control group members, who are more likely to get married. Interestingly, in support of this hypothesis, program group members in Portland were 6.0 percentage points, or 43 percent, more likely to cohabit, and 6.2 percentage points, or 26 percent, less likely to get married than control group members. These effects approached statistical significance (p = 0.11). Thus, it appears that in Portland control group members were more likely to get married and program group members were more likely to cohabit. However, this hypothesized pattern of more program group members engaging in less-formal relationships than control group members is not clear in Atlanta and Grand Rapids.
Site and Program
|Sample Size||Program Group (%)||Control Group (%)||Difference (Impact)||Percentage Change (%)|
Married, living with spouse
|Atlanta Labor Force Attachment||1,060||9.8||8.4||1.3||15.8|
|Atlanta Human Capital Development||1,135||6.9||8.4||-1.5||-18.2|
|Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment||1,090||22.8||20.5||2.3||11.1|
|Grand Rapids Human Capital Development||1,102||20.3||20.5||-0.2||-1.0|
|Riverside Labor Force Attachment||1,213||20.6||22.0||-1.4||-6.5|
|Lacked high school diploma or basic skills||654||18.6||18.1||0.5||2.9|
|Riverside Human Capital Development||773||21.8||18.1||3.7||20.5|
|Atlanta Labor Force Attachment||1,060||7.1||6.7||0.4||5.8|
|Atlanta Human Capital Development||1,135||6.7||6.7||0.1||1.0|
|Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment||1,090||17.4||15.9||1.5||9.4|
|Grand Rapids Human Capital Development||1,102||16.2||15.9||0.3||2.0|
|Riverside Labor Force Attachment||1,213||15.3||10.7||4.6**||42.6|
|Lacked high school diploma or basic skills||654||15.9||11.1||4.9*||43.9|
|Riverside Human Capital Development||773||13.7||11.1||2.6||23.6|
Separated, divorced, or widowed
|Atlanta Labor Force Attachment||1,060||34.8||37.2||-2.4||-6.5|
|Atlanta Human Capital Development||1,135||36.1||37.2||-1.1||-3.0|
|Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment||1,090||29.5||33.7||-4.1*||-12.2|
|Grand Rapids Human Capital Development||1,102||32.7||33.7||-0.9||-2.8|
|Riverside Labor Force Attachment||1,213||45.0||45.8||-0.8||-1.8|
|Lacked high school diploma or basic skills||654||44.1||46.4||-2.3||-5.0|
|Riverside Human Capital Development||773||42.1||46.4||-4.3||-9.2|
|Atlanta Labor Force Attachment||1,060||48.4||47.7||0.7||1.5|
|Atlanta Human Capital Development||1,135||50.3||47.7||2.6||5.4|
|Grand Rapids Labor Force Attachment||1,090||30.3||30.0||0.4||1.2|
|Grand Rapids Human Capital Development||1,102||30.8||30.0||0.8||2.7|
|Riverside Labor Force Attachment||1,213||19.1||21.4||-2.3||-10.9|
|Lacked high school diploma or basic skills||654||21.3||24.4||-3.1||-12.5|
|Riverside Human Capital Development||773||22.3||24.4||-2.1||-8.5|
|SOURCE: MDRC calculations from the Five-Year Client Survey.
NOTES: See Appendix A.2. Owing to missing values, sample sizes may vary.
Only one other impact on marital status was found. Program group members in the Grand Rapid LFA program were less likely to report being separated, divorced, or widowed by 4.1 percentage points, or 12 percent. This latter effect is a result of either control group members moving into marriage or cohabitation or program group members getting married and then separating or divorcing by the time of the five-year follow-up. The lack of more pervasive impacts on these point-in-time measures of marital status is not surprising for two reasons. As noted above, these programs were not intended to affect marital behavior. Also, point-in-time measures of marital status will not capture effects on marital status changes, and program effects on employment, for example, that occurred earlier in the follow-up period may have been more likely to affect the timing of marriage. Also, a respondent could have married after the two-year survey and divorced by the time of the five-year survey, and this change would not be measured in the survey.