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

12/01/2001

Ethnicity. The racial and ethnic makeup of the full impact sample varied from site to site, reflecting general differences in the overall ethnic composition of the counties from which the samples were drawn. For example, whereas almost all sample members in Atlanta and Detroit were African-American, about one-half of sample members in Grand Rapids, Riverside, Columbus, and Oklahoma City and two-thirds of those in Portland were white. Only Riverside had a substantial proportion (one-third) of Hispanic sample members (see Table 2.3).

Table 2.3
Selected Baseline Characteristics of Full Impact Sample Members

Characteristic

Atlanta Grand Rapids Riverside Columbus Detroit Oklahoma City Portland
Demographic characteristics

Gender (%)

Male 3.2 4.2 10.6 6.5 3.3 6.9 6.7
Female 96.8 95.8 89.4 93.5 96.7 93.1 93.3
Age (%)
Under 19 0.0 5.4 0.9 0.2 2.9 9.8 0.0
19-24 9.5 34.2 15.5 12.9 26.2 27.0 23.1
25-34 54.9 40.6 49.7 55.7 43.3 42.9 50.8
35-44 29.6 16.5 27.8 26.8 22.7 17.3 22.2
45 or over 6.0 3.3 6.1 4.4 5.0 2.9 3.9
Average age (years) 32.8 28.2 32.0 31.8 30.0 28.1 30.4
Ethnicity (%)
White 3.5 50.1 49.0 46.5 11.0 59.4 69.5
Hispanic 0.8 8.0 30.2 0.4 0.8 4.3 3.9
Black 95.2 39.3 16.7 52.0 87.3 28.9 20.1
Black Hispanic 0.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.3 0.3
Native American/Alaskan Native 0.1 1.5 1.4 0.1 0.2 6.4 3.0
Asian/Pacific Islander 0.2 0.4 2.7 0.8 0.2 0.6 2.2
Other 0.2 0.5 0.0 0.3 0.6 0.1 1.1
Family status
Marital status (%)
Never married 60.5 57.9 32.5 50.2 68.0 34.3 47.3
Married, living with spouse 1.4 3.3 8.1 8.2 2.7 3.8 1.7
Separated 20.7 18.4 31.4 22.3 15.8 35.7 21.8
Divorced 16.1 19.3 26.5 18.6 12.3 25.2 28.6
Widowed 1.4 1.0 1.5 0.8 1.2 1.0 0.6
Number of children (%)
1 36.7 46.9 38.6 40.0 43.7 50.6 40.6
2 33.2 35.3 32.0 33.4 29.6 30.5 33.6
3 or more 30.1 17.9 29.4 26.6 26.7 18.9 25.8
Average number of children 2.1 1.8 2.0 2.0 2.0 1.7 2.0
Age of children (%)
Any child aged 0-5 41.5 67.9 56.0 46.9 64.3 65.1 67.4
Any child aged 6-11 63.0 38.3 56.2 57.3 44.3 40.5 47.6
Any child aged 12-18 46.3 26.2 37.0 39.4 34.0 23.9 25.9
Age of youngest child (%)
2 or under 0.3 46.3 6.2 1.8 39.3 41.4 40.2
3 to 5 41.2 21.6 49.8 45.1 25.0 23.8 27.3
6 or over 58.5 32.1 44.0 53.1 35.7 34.9 32.6
Had a child as a teenager (%) 42.3 48.4 32.8 37.5 44.2 47.1 32.3
Labor force status
Ever worked full time for 6 months or more
for one employer (%) 71.4 63.8 71.0 42.5 48.1 68.8 76.9
Any earnings in past 12 months (%) 23.6 46.0 40.7 28.2 21.1 69.0 39.3
Currently employed (%) 6.9 11.4 11.2 4.0 6.8 8.6 9.6
Education status
Received high school diploma or GED (%) 59.7 59.0 56.2 57.4 56.5 55.1 67.3

Highest degree/diploma earned (%)

GED a 5.4 8.2 9.2 7.0 10.7 11.3 21.5
High school diploma 46.7 45.9 41.8 44.6 37.0 38.2 34.5
Technical/AA/2-year college 6.6 4.1 4.3 4.6 8.0 4.3 9.7
4-year (or more) college 1.3 0.9 0.9 1.6 1.1 1.6 1.9
None of the above 40.0 40.9 43.8 42.3 43.2 44.6 32.3
Enrolled in education or training in past
12 months (%) 13.4 39.2 19.6 9.5 20.0 23.7 21.1
Currently enrolled in education or training (%) 8.4 34.8 14.1 7.8 28.2 12.9 13.5
Public assistance status
Total prior AFDC receipt (%) b
None 0.3 0.1 1.0 10.0 2.8 44.4 1.2
Less than 1 year 18.9 22.1 33.8 8.3 13.7 18.8 20.9
1 year or more but less than 2 years 10.1 18.6 11.3 9.0 9.1 12.5 16.6
2 years or more but less than 5 years 24.6 30.0 26.4 27.9 24.0 15.3 32.1
5 years or more but less than 10 years 22.4 16.4 15.6 22.7 22.5 6.5 21.1
10 years or more 23.7 12.8 11.8 22.1 27.9 2.5 8.2
Raised as a child in a household receiving AFDC (%) 26.9 32.8 19.5 27.0 40.1 21.7 23.8
First spell of AFDC receipt (%) c 7.2 27.9 23.5 9.6 4.1 42.0 7.2

Level of disadvantage

Most disadvantaged d 24.2 15.1 24.7 19.0 25.1 4.9 15.3
Housing status
Current housing status (%)
Public housing 35.9 2.6 2.5 15.2 5.5 5.3 7.6
Subsidized housing 24.9 13.0 7.0 24.7 1.1 6.7 18.6
Emergency or temporary housing 0.7 2.4 1.4 1.4 0.8 14.4 3.7
None of the above 38.5 82.1 89.1 58.7 92.6 73.7 70.1
Sample size 4,433 4,554 8,322 7,242 4,459 8,677 4,028
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from information routinely collected by welfare staff.
NOTES:  Distributions may not add to 100 percent because of rounding.
a  The GED credential is given to those who pass the GED test and is intended to signify knowledge of high school subjects.
b  This refers to the total number of months accumulated from at least one spell on an individual's own or spouse's AFDC case. It does not include AFDC receipt under a parent's name.
c  This does not mean that such individuals are new to the AFDC rolls, only that this is their first spell on AFDC. This spell, however, may have lasted several years.
d  The "most disadvantaged" subgroup consists of sample members who did not have a high school diploma or GED at random assignment, did not work for pay in the year prior to random assignment, and had received AFDC for two years or more (cumulatively) prior to random assignment.

Family structure.  Almost all the sample members in the evaluation were single parents. The "average" sample member was a 30-year-old single mother with two children.(22) She was likely to have had a preschool-age child at random assignment and to have had her first child as a teenager.

This characterization does not capture the diversity of the families who were subject to program participation mandates in these locales. In particular, it does not reflect important site differences in who was required to participate in a welfare-to-work program. Just under one-half of sample members in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Oklahoma City, and Portland  where mothers with a child as young as age 1 were required to participate  entered the program when their youngest child was under age 3. The remainder of the sample in these four sites and the full samples in the other three sites were evenly divided between mothers with a youngest child aged 3 to 5 and those with a youngest child aged 6 or over. In Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Oklahoma City, unlike in the other sites, teen parents are included in the full impact sample (see Table 2.1).

Educational attainment. Between 55 and 66 percent of sample members had a high school diploma or GED certificate when they entered the program, and some enrollees in all sites had some college or post-secondary schooling. On average, however, sample members had completed only 11 years of school before random assignment. Those sample members who had a high school diploma or GED certificate at random assignment are described in this report as graduates; those without a high school diploma or GED are described as nongraduates.

Employment history. Sample members' employment history varied by site. Less than one-half of sample members in all sites except Oklahoma City had worked at some point during the year before random assignment: from 21 percent (in Detroit) to 46 percent (in Grand Rapids). Not surprisingly, sample members in Oklahoma City, all of whom were welfare applicants, were far more likely to have worked in the year before entering the program (69 percent had done so).

In addition to having little recent work experience, less than one-half of the sample members in Columbus and Detroit had worked full time for six months or more for one employer at some point before random assignment; two-thirds to three-quarters of sample members in the other sites had done so.

Past welfare receipt. The majority of sample members in all sites except Oklahoma City had already received welfare for at least two years cumulatively before random assignment. Just 24 percent of those in Oklahoma City, compared with 54 to 74 percent in the other sites, had received cash assistance for two years or more. Excluding Oklahoma, between 28 and 50 percent of sample members had received welfare cumulatively for five years or more before random assignment.

"Most disadvantaged" status. The sample members considered to be the most disadvantaged were those who lacked a high school diploma or GED (or, in Riverside, who were determined to need basic education), lacked any work history in the year before random assignment, and had already received welfare for two years or more cumulatively before entering the program. The proportion of sample members in the most disadvantaged group ranged from 5 percent in Oklahoma City to 25 percent in Riverside and Detroit.

Housing status. The proportion of sample members who at random assignment were living in public housing developments or receiving housing subsidies through such programs as the Section 8 rental assistance program was highest in Atlanta (56 percent) and lowest in Detroit (7 percent). Some have argued that federal housing policies discourage people from working because  from the standpoint of residents of public and subsidized housing, who pay rent on a sliding scale  earnings increases mean rent increases. In addition, gross income limits on housing assistance eligibility could cause a newly employed person to lose her housing subsidy altogether.

Compared with people in the other sites, a fairly large proportion (14 percent) of people in the Oklahoma City sample lived in emergency or temporary housing  that is, lived in a shelter or were homeless  when they applied for welfare. Less than 3 percent of sample members in the other sites were experiencing this type of hardship at random assignment.