How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Effects of Welfare-to-Work Approaches on Marital Status

12/01/2001

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).

Figure 9.1
Control Group Levels of Marriage

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.

 

Table 9.2
Impacts on Marital Status During the Month Prior to the Five-Year Interview

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
Portland 501 17.4 23.6 -6.2 -26.1

Cohabiting

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
Portland 501 19.9 13.9 6.0 43.0

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
Portland 501 38.8 38.8 0.0 0.0

Never married

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
Portland 501 23.9 23.7 0.2 0.7
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.