Impacts of a Mandatory Welfare-to-Work Program on Children at School Entry and Beyond: Findings from the NEWWS Child Outcomes Study. Impacts on Key Economic-Related Outcomes


In addition to answering key evaluation questions pertaining to program impacts on economic outcomes, an examination of such impacts might shed light on how it came to be that children were affected. So how were these children's parents and families affected by JOBS? The results for mothers in the Child Outcomes Study indicate that these six JOBS programs generally affected key economic outcomes as intended, especially in the short-run.

  • By the two-year point, all six programs had substantially increased mothers' participation in activities designed to promote employment. Both the education- and work-focused programs increased participation in job search activities, with employment-focused programs increasing these rates by nearly tenfold over control group levels of less than 5 percent. In addition, all three education-focused programs at least doubled participation in basic education activities, with Atlanta's education-focused program quadrupling this rate from 5.3 to 21.9, and Riverside's education-focused program tripling this rate from 15.7 to 51.8.
  • The three employment-focused programs generally did not alter, or even decreased, the likelihood of obtaining a high school diploma, GED, or trade certificate. Riverside's employment-focused program did not affect degree receipt either in the short-run or in the long-run. Grand Rapids' employment-focused program decreased degree receipt, by 11 percentage points, both early and later on. Atlanta's employment-focused program was the only one of these six JOBS programs to increase the proportion of mothers receiving a trade degree (from 5.9 to 8.3 percent) by the two year point  though even this program had no longer-term impacts on the likelihood of obtaining an educational credential.
  • Some, but not all, employment-focused programs increased employment over the five-year period, and one education-focused program did. Atlanta's employment-focused program only slightly increased employment in the month prior to the two-year survey but showed no longer-term employment impacts. By contrast, Grand Rapids' employment-focused program and each of Riverside's programs increased the proportion of mothers reporting any employment early on (in the first two years of follow-up), as well as averaged over the full five-year follow-up period. Employment impacts were sustained in these three programs; a greater percent of these program than control group mothers were employed in each quarter in the last year of follow-up. In Riverside, these findings also held for the subgroup of mothers who were in need of basic education at study entry.
  • All three education-focused programs increased degree receipt by the two-year point, though only two of these programs had long-term impacts on mothers' educational attainment. In the short run, mothers in each site's education-focused programs were more likely than mothers in the respective control groups to obtain a degree. However, these impacts faded in Grand Rapids by the fifth year, where a sizable minority of control group mothers had received an educational credential during the follow-up period.
  • Impacts on welfare receipt varied over time and across programs. Early on, only Atlanta's programs and the employment-focused program in Riverside reduced the likelihood of receiving welfare in the month prior to the two-year survey. However, these welfare impacts faded in Atlanta. Longer-term reductions in welfare were concentrated in three programs: Grand Rapids' employment-focused program, and both programs in Riverside, reduced time on welfare and total welfare payments averaged over the entire five-year follow-up period. Findings held for Riverside's "in-need" subgroup as well. Notably, these are the same three programs that increased employment averaged over the entire follow-up period.
  • Only Riverside's programs increased total earnings, both early on and averaged over the entire follow-up period. This is perhaps because they were the only programs to increase the average hourly wage and average hours worked at the two-year point; they were also the only two programs to increase the proportion of mothers employed full-time at the five-year interview. Both programs in Riverside increased full-time employment and cumulative earnings for educationally disadvantaged mothers as well.
  • Impacts on income and poverty were even more limited, and sometimes unfavorable. None of these six JOBS programs affected  neither increased nor decreased  total income, on average, measured in the month prior to the two-year survey.(16) Similarly, none of these programs affected income accrued in years 1 to 5 to these families with young children. Nevertheless, four programs affected families' poverty status at the two-year point, with two programs decreasing poverty and two programs increasing poverty. For example, Riverside's education-focused program decreased the proportion in poverty measured the month prior to the two-year survey, from 79 to 73 percent. In addition, Atlanta's employment-focused program reduced the proportion in "deep poverty" (incomes at less than half the poverty line) in the prior month, from 19 to 15 percent. At the same time, about 70 percent of mothers in Grand Rapids' control group had income in the month prior to the two-year survey placing them below the poverty line in that month, and each of Grand Rapids' programs increased this likelihood by about 5 percent. Notably, even programs that reduced poverty still left a majority of families below the poverty line at the two-year point.

In sum, while some welfare recipients with young children were able to make educational gains and economic progress without the benefit of JOBS, each of these six JOBS programs was able to improve upon this progress in one way or another in the short run. Four programs increased educational attainment early on; three years later, only two education-focused programs continued to show positive impacts on education. Only three programs had sustained increases in employment over the five-year period; two of these programs had sustained increases in earnings. However, improvements in income, either early or later on, remained elusive.