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


Two-year participation findings, available for all 11 NEWWS programs, provide the basis for the longer-term rates, during a time period in which program participation was at its most intense. Across all 11 programs, program group members' two-year participation rates (in any employment-related activity) ranged from 19 to 29 percent in Atlanta, Columbus, and Riverside to approximately 40 percent in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Portland.(7) Two-year participation rates were comparable to participation rates attained in most welfare-to-work programs studied in previous evaluations. Program group members most often participated in job search and basic education, including Adult Basic Education (ABE), high school completion, and General Educational Development (GED) certificate preparation classes, with levels varying by program approach and educational attainment subgroup. On their own initiative, without a mandate to participate in a welfare-to-work program, control group members participated most often in education and training activities (including post-secondary education and vocational training), somewhat less frequently in basic education, and least often in job search, work experience, and on-the-job training. Control group participation levels were notably high in Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Grand Rapids.

The four employment-focused programs produced large gains in job search participation  between 27 percentage points in Grand Rapids LFA and 32 percentage points in Portland  for both graduates and nongraduates. All education-focused programs except for Detroit and Oklahoma City achieved large increases in basic education participation for nongraduate sample members; however, education-focused programs had little effect on increasing participation in employment-related training for graduates. The three HCD programs and Portland's employment-focused, varied first activity program produced moderate to large increases in the attainment of a GED certificate among welfare recipients who lacked this credential at random assignment.

In sum, the two-year participation levels indicate that all sites except Oklahoma City and Detroit, both of which were low enforcement, successfully implemented their self-sufficiency approach. All LFA programs generated large increases in job search, and all HCD programs generated large increases in education and training activities. Education-focused program impacts were concentrated among nongraduates, who were most often assigned to basic education. Portland's mixed approach achieved large increases in job search and education and training activities.

Sanction rates were also examined at the two-year follow-up. In general, there was no clear association between a program's level of sanctioning and participation rates or impacts. Among the three programs that had the smallest increases in participation in any activity, two were low enforcement, while the third  Grand Rapids LFA  sanctioned a larger percentage of sample members than any other program. The two programs with the highest participation rates, Riverside LFA and Portland, both had mid-level sanctioning rates.

For the remainder of the chapter, the focus will narrow to the seven sites with five-year survey data. When two- and five-year trends are discussed, the sample is further restricted to those sample members for whom both two- and five-year survey data are available.