How Effective Are Different Welfare-to-Work Approaches? Five-Year Adult and Child Impacts for Eleven Programs. Links Between Effects on Household and Personal Circumstances and Particular Program Practices or Program Effects on Employment


Of all of the outcomes and impacts examined in this chapter, only one may be differentiated by a particular program practice: The effect of the Grand Rapids LFA program on having experienced domestic abuse at any point during a respondent's lifetime is significantly different from the effect of the HCD program. Although puzzling, it is unlikely that this effect depicts a general difference between LFA and HCD program approaches since these differences did not occur in Atlanta or Riverside, or on measures that were confined to the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview. These welfare-to-work programs had few effects on measures of any lifetime experience of employment-related or domestic abuse. However, a striking and consistent pattern of impacts was found on the measure of quality of relationships in the prior year, with fewer program group members than control group members reporting experiences with physical domestic abuse (for example, by an intimate partner) in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview. At the same time, there is no evidence that these programs altered respondents' living arrangements at the time of the survey interview.

The effects on physical domestic abuse are reassuringly positive and suggest that employment can play a role in influencing some aspects of the quality of relationships. Unlike policies that include an enhanced earned income disregard, increased employment, in the context of these welfare-to-work programs, did not always lead to enhanced personal resources or income that ultimately may help domestic abuse victims to leave their relationships. For example, recent MFIP findings suggest that MFIP's financial incentives, rather than the added effects of MFIP's participation requirements, produced the effects on decreased domestic abuse.(18) Although these financial incentives contributed to increased employment, their most pronounced effects were to increase income and decrease poverty. The welfare-to-work programs evaluated in this report do not have a similar policy component, and certainly do not mirror MFIP's effects on income. In fact, as previously mentioned, cumulative effects on average combined income varied considerably across sites. The differences in program effects on average combined income  that also exist during the final year of follow-up  and similarities in program effects on domestic abuse across sites suggest that some other program effect may be contributing to decreased reported rates of physical abuse.

Research suggests that women who have experienced recent abuse are as likely to be employed as those who have not had a similar experience with abuse and that most women on welfare want to work and have work experience whether or not they have been victims of abuse.(19) Program effects on employment somewhat support these research conclusions; that is, though most programs increased employment at some point during the follow-up period some programs did not necessarily increase employment during the last year of follow-up, yet these same programs led to fewer reports of physical abuse. Thus, in some cases current employment may have played an important role, while in other cases early boosts in employment may have played an important role. Employment may not have always led to increased financial resources, but it may have increased self-esteem or self-efficacy, giving respondents the courage to leave abusive relationships, or may have simply reduced contact with abusive partners or situations.

Additional analyses were conducted to examine the relationship, if any, between effects on employment attributed to the LFA and HCD programs and effects on domestic abuse. These analyses do not reveal whether or not employment led to less physical abuse or vice versa, but can reveal whether or not effects on employment or program practices were at all related to effects on physical abuse: Did the same program group members who experienced increased employment also report less physical abuse? This hypothesis was examined by estimating impacts on joint outcomes depicting combinations of "being employed at any time during the follow-up period" and "experiencing physical domestic abuse in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview" and "being employed in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview" and "experiencing physical domestic abuse in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview." Effects on these joint outcomes showed that both Riverside programs and the Grand Rapids HCD program significantly increased the likelihood of being employed and reporting no physical abuse in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview. The pattern of effects was similar, though not statistically significant, for both Atlanta programs. Similar effects were not found for the joint measure of "employed and reporting no physical domestic abuse in the year prior to the five-year follow-up interview," suggesting that early effects on employment may have contributed to decreased reports of physical abuse later in the follow-up.(20)

Research suggests that abuse by intimate partners may be a critical barrier to employment: Abusers sabotage women's employment efforts, often leaving them with little choice except to quit or miss work or schooling.(21) In this regard, it may have been the mandate to engage in employment-related activities and the very real threat of losing portions of the welfare benefit that helped women overcome any partner interference in their training or employment.(22)

Other possible explanations for observed effects on physical domestic abuse that occurred later in the follow-up period include program practices by caseworkers early in the follow-up period. Did program group members who reported less physical abuse later in the follow-up period also report that JOBS staff helped them with particular problems or provided them with particular services early in the follow-up period? Program group members who reported physical abuse in the last year of follow-up were more likely than program group members who reported no abuse to also report at the two-year follow-up that JOBS staff were highly likely to help them with problems that made it difficult to participate in JOBS. Again, these differences were especially pronounced among sample members in both Riverside program and the Grand Rapids HCD program. Thus, some of the impact on decreased physical abuse later in the follow-up period may be attributed to effects on "increased attention" by JOBS staff to deal with problems, such as domestic abuse, that might have made participation in employment or employment-related activities difficult.

The TANF program of PRWORA paid special attention to women who experienced or were at imminent risk of serious partner violence and intimidation. As a result, states were given the option to engage in procedures to identify and assess risk, provide services, and, if necessary, temporarily waive program requirements for victims of abuse. The findings of this study are encouraging because they highlight the fact that for some battered women, employment and/or caseworker attention to special services may lead to greater safety. Perhaps these women were able to make changes in their relationships or separate from their abusers, or, through employment, were able to physically remove themselves from abusive situations. Thus, the belief that most battered women need to be relieved of employment requirements is not born out by this study. However, employment at a time of risk may not have such positive results for other abused women, particularly those who are at imminent risk and may require temporary relief from employment requirements. Identifying these women and their needs is important so that various approaches may be developed and implemented to best assist all battered women to move into employment and off welfare.(23) The impacts on physical domestic abuse noted in this chapter are quite striking and merit further analysis and attention. Questions for further research include: How does employment and the characteristics of employment affect employment-related and domestic abuse? Does employment-related and domestic abuse affect employment stability? Are effects on employment-related and domestic abuse linked to effects on marital status or household composition?


1.  Freedman et al., 2000a, Appendix C.

2.  This category includes spouse, partner, father, mother, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, cousin, other adult male or female relative, and other unrelated male or female adult.

3.  This category includes son, daughter, nephew, niece, grandson, granddaughter, and other unrelated male or female child.

4.  U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000.

5.  Including cohabitors who may have fathered at least one child in the household is consistent with recent work by Primus et al., 1999, that documents the proportion of single mother families who live with unrelated adults using data from the Current Population Survey. Information about whether or not a father lives in the household is available for a subset of client survey respondents (those who were also in the Child Outcomes Study sample). However, even this information is relevant only for the focal child in the family.

6.  The percentage of respondents who reported these types of discrepancies is small: 2.6 percent of respondents reported being married or cohabiting and did not list a spouse or partner as a household member; 0.7 percent of respondents reported not being married or cohabiting but listed a spouse or partner as a household member.

7.  The incidences of each of these categories alone were negligible  less than 5 percent of the client survey sample reported living in any one of these arrangements.

8.  For more detailed information on the Child Outcomes Study sample, see Chapter 12.

9.  Gallup-Black, 1999, discusses in detail the quality of data on domestic abuse and domestic barriers to work when collected via self-administered questionnaire (SAQ) and Computer-Assisted Self-Interview (CASI). CASI users sit alone with a computer and headphones and type their answers directly into the computer. Gallup-Black compared SAQ-based NEWWS data with CASI-based Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) data. She found that NEWWS respondents were less likely to answer questions about sensitive items than MFIP respondents.

10.  An example of a policy that can be expected to affect marriage is streamlining eligibility rules for two-parent families on welfare by excluding any restrictions about the number of hours a spouse may work, often called the "100-hour" rule.

11.  See Harknett and Gennetian, 2001, for detailed hypotheses about how welfare and employment programs, or changes in employment and income, may affect marital behavior.

12.  Primus et al., 1999, using data from the Current Population Survey.

13.  Riger and Krieglstein, 2000.

14.  Gennetian and Miller, 2000; Bloom et al., 2000a.

15.  Allard et al., 1997; Raphael and Tolman, 1997.

16.  Danziger et al., 1999.

17.  The effect for the Atlanta HCD program is significant at the p = 0.12 level and the effect for the Riverside HCD program is significant at the p = 0.11 level.

18.  Gennetian and Miller, 2000.

19.  Lyon, 2000.

20.  According to a similar analysis, the puzzling effects on ever experiencing abuse in the Grand Rapids LFA program do not appear to be linked with employment at all.

21.  Riger, Ahrens, and Blickenstaff, 2001, Chapter 7. Some examples of sabotage include turning off alarm clocks, failing to fulfill child care responsibilities, destroying textbooks, and administering beatings so that a woman has highly visible bruises. Raphael, 1996.

22.  Unfortunately, the survey collected only information about whether or not a respondent "ever" experienced various barriers to employment by intimate partners and others, and, thus, these measures cannot be confined to the same period of time as the abuse measures.

23.  The survey questions in the five-year interview in this study were not structured to identify women at imminent risk (or the effects of any exemptions for these women), but rather to capture whether or not personal or other relationships affected women's ability to participate in program requirements or employment, and whether or not services by program staff, enhanced employment, or other resources, including income, can alter the quality of relationships.