How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Impacts on the Well-Being of All Children

12/01/2001

The effects of welfare-to-work programs on child well-being are addressed in two chapters in this report. This chapter captures the breadth of the effects of seven welfare-to-work programs on the well-being of children of all respondents in the Five-Year Client Survey. Program effects are evaluated for children in four age groups,В  from toddlers to adolescents at the time of study entry,В  and on outcomes in two domains of child developmentВ  academic functioning and health and safetyВ  as well as on and on selected other selected outcomes. Chapter 12 analyzes, in greater depth, effects on child well-being at the five- year follow-up for a subset of "focal" children, aged 3 to 5 at random assignment, in six welfare-to-work programs in Atlanta, Grand Rapids, and Riverside.(1) Details about the samples examined in these two chapters and how they are derived from the full impact sample in this report are shown in Figure 11.1.

Figure 11.1
Samples and Subsamples Used In Chapter 11 and 12

 

Samples and Subsamples Used In Chapter 11 and 12

As discussed in Chapter 1, a central goal of the federal JOBS program, under the 1988 Family Support Act (FSA), was to move single mothers from public assistance to paid employment. This goal was largely implemented by imposing strict participation and work requirements. For 20 years prior to 1988, women receiving welfare who had children under age 6 generally were not subject to these mandates. With the passage of the FSA, women with children as young as age 3 (or as young as age 1, at state option) were newly designated as mandatory participants. Thus, in the early 1990s there was much interest in how welfare-to-work programs might affect children, especially very young children. that differed from the past, particularly for mothers who had children aged less than 6. The well-being of children remained of central concern and produced considerable debate at the passage of this legislation as well as the more recent 1996 welfare reform law (Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, or PRWORA) that similarly imposed requirements to move welfare recipients into employment and imposed participation mandates on women with children as young as age 1 (or younger, at state option). A two-year follow-up evaluation of the effects of the NEWWS programs on child well-being, which outcomes that included a special study of preschool-age children, was one of the first to inform this debate. The analysis in these two chapters represents the first evaluations of long-term effects of mandatory welfare-to-work programs on the well-being of children.

Earlier chapters in this report primarily focused on the effects of welfare-to-work programs on the outcomes targeted by these programs, such as education, employment, and welfare receipt. As these chapters revealed, during the five-year follow-up period the NEWWS programs, regardless of whether they were program was employment- or education-focused, generally increased participation in employment-related activities, employment and earnings and reduced public assistance payments. for all respondents in the study. The consistency of these findings across programs and sites is not surprising given the stated goals of the programs. Appendix I, summarizes these effects for the Five-Year Client Survey sample and shows that, with some exceptions for the Riverside LFA and HCD programs, and, most important, the Portland program, the pattern of impacts for the respondents in the Five-Year Client Survey sample were quite similar to the impacts for the full impact sample are presented and discussed in Chapters 4-6.

Unlike early childhood intervention programs, the NEWWS programs were not structured to directly affect the well-being of children. It is still possible, however, that welfare-to-work programs could produced either favorable or unfavorable effects on child outcomes. Current theories hypothesize that, by affecting the behavior of mothers' programs could also indirectly affect children's well-being through, for example, changes in mothers' psychological well-being or parenting skills or styles, in child care, and/or in family life and material resources. Some of these changes may bode well for certain child outcomes but prove problematic for others, and thus the effects of a given type of welfare-to-work program on child outcomes may not be uniformly favorable or unfavorable across developmental domains.(2) Also, it is possible that program impacts on child outcomes may vary, depending on whether the effects are enduring, the extent of the exposure to the program, or on the combined effects of all program impacts.

The ways that welfare programs might affect child well-being can be depicted in a simple conceptual framework.(3) A program's features, such as its message, sanctioning rates, and monitoring, can affect the targeted or direct outcomes of the program, such as employment, public assistance receipt, income, and education, and nontargeted outcomes, such as child care and parenting behavior, and ultimately leading to effects on child outcomes. Prior research, though largely based on nonexperimental studies, provides a basis for predicting and understanding how effects on key outcomes such as education, employment, earnings, and income may affect children. For example, mothers' increased educational attainment and employment (depending on the extent and quality of the job), and/or family income may prove beneficial to children in low-income families.(4) Mothers' psychological well-being and parentingВ  shown to be related to children's developmental outcomes in the nonexperimental literature(5)В  may also be affected by these programs, though the extent and direction of likely change may vary.(6) Child care is another way in which mothers' employment may affect children. Unstable or low-quality child care may produce detrimental effects on children's development.(7)

This chapter reviews general hypotheses and impact findings on child outcomes, organized by child age. It discusses whether or not mothers with children in various age groups may have behaved and responded differently to these welfare-to-work programs.(8),В (9) Also, welfare-to-work programs might have affected children differently at different points in their development. For example, toddlers may be the most vulnerable to possible negative effects of mothers' employment, particularly if they are placed in poor-quality child care. Adolescents, in contrast, may have the most to gain if they are placed in enriching after-school programs. Older children may be left unsupervised or may take on more responsibilities at home as mothers join the workforce, which could lead to unfavorable effects on their development, particularly their social behavior. In reviewing the discussion of impacts throughout this chapter, it is important to remember that, as discussed in Chapter 1, some control group members in Atlanta and Grand Rapids became eligible for program services after the third year of the follow-up period. However, it appears that program impacts on earnings and welfare receipt were only slightly affected by the end of the control group embargo in these sites. The chapter then ends with a discussion, again by child age, of what may have led to that program effects on children.

Table 11.1 summarizes the impacts on the limited set of outcomes examined in this chapter, by child age.

 

Table 11.1
Summary of Impacts on Child Outcomes, by Child Age at Random Assignment
В  Academic Functioning Health and Safety Other
В  Repeated a Grade Suspended or Expelled Attended a Special Class for a Condition Dropped Out of School Had a Condition That Required Frequent Medical Attention Required Emergency Room Visit Had a Condition That Impeded on Mother's Ability to Go to Work or School Did Not Live With Mother Because She Could Not Care for Child Had a Baby as a Teen

Toddlers
(aged 6 and 7 at follow-up)

Grand Rapids LFA В  F В  - F В  В  В  -
Grand Rapids HCD В  F В  - В  В  В  В  -
Portland В  В  В  - В  В  В  В  -

Preschool-age children
(aged 8 to 10 at follow-up)

Atlanta LFA В  В  В  - U В  U В  -
Atlanta HCD В  В  В  - U В  В  В  -
Grand Rapids LFA В  В  В  - В  В  В  В  -
Grand Rapids HCD U В  В  - В  В  В  В  -
Riverside LFA F В  В  - f В  F S -
В InВ needa F В  В  - В  В  F В  -
Riverside HCD В  В  В  - В  В  В  В  -
Portland В  В  В  - В  В  В  В  -

Young school-age children
(aged 11 to 14 at follow-up)

Atlanta LFA В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В  -
Atlanta HCD В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В  -
Grand Rapids LFA u U В  В  В  В  В  В  -
Grand Rapids HCD В  В  В  В  F В  F В  -
Riverside LFA В  F В  В  В  В  В  S -
В InВ needa u F В  В  В  В  В  S -
Riverside HCD В  F В  В  В  F В  S -
Portland В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В  -

Adolescents
(aged 15 to 23 at follow-up)

Atlanta LFA В  F В  В  В  В  В  В  f

Atlanta HCD

В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В 
Grand Rapids LFA U В  u В  u В  В  В  В 
Grand Rapids HCD U В  u В  В  В  В  В  В 
Riverside LFA U В  u В  F В  В  S В 
В InВ needa u В  U В  F В  В  s U
Riverside HCD U В  U U В  В  U В  u
Portland В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В  В 
NOTES: "F" indicates a statistically significant favorable impact. "U" indicates a statistically significant unfavorable impact. "f" indicates a favorable impact above the cutoff for statistical significance but part of the overall pattern. "u" indicates an unfavorable impact above the cutoff for statistical significance but part of the overall pattern. "S" indicates a statistically significant impact that could not be categorized as favorable or unfavorable. "s" indicates an impact above the cutoff for statistical significance but part of the overall pattern. See Chapter 2 for the definition of a pattern. "-" indicates that a measure was not appropriate for a particular child age group. Blank spaces indicate that there were no impacts.
a Sample members lacked a high school diploma or basic skills at random assignment.