How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Key Findings


  • There is little evidence that these welfare-to-work programs had long-term effects on children in general. Effects that did emerge were clustered by age of the child, with most effects occurring among children who were adolescents at the start of the study (aged 15 to 23 at the five-year follow-up).(10) There is less convincing evidence that the effects of these welfare-to-work programs on children are clustered or vary by domain of child development, program approach, or site.
  • There were few differences in the effects on child outcomes by program approach.
  • Few program effects were found for children who were toddlers at the start of the study (aged 6 and 7 at the five-year follow-up). It is noteworthy, however, that on the few outcomes measured in the two sites with data for children in this age group more unfavorable effects were not found. In fact, both Grand Rapids programs produced a consistent pattern of favorable effects (though not always statistically significant and thus not always shown in Table 11.1). Perhaps one explanation is that the Grand Rapids programs were more likely to increase part-time employment for the mothers of these toddlers. A similar pattern of effects on part-time employment was not found in Portland or for mothers with older children.
  • Few program effects were found for children who were preschool-age or young school-age at the start of the study (aged 8 to 10 and 11 to 14, respectively, at the five-year follow-up). Any effects that did occur for these children were both favorable and unfavorable.
  • The effects of the welfare-to-work programs on adolescents who were aged 15 to 23 at the five-year follow-up were generally unfavorable for children with parents in the Grand Rapids and Riverside programs, particularly in the Riverside HCD program. These effects were concentrated in the academic functioning domain and included increased grade repetition, increased attendance in a special class, and, in one program, increased likelihood of dropping out of school. Mothers of adolescents in these two sites experienced the largest increases in employment during the first year of follow-up, decreased average income from earnings and welfare benefits, and, in two programs, were more likely to be married at the five-year follow-up point. Adolescents' academic functioning may have been especially vulnerable to any one or all of these changes.