Implementation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. D. Participant Characteristics

08/01/2002

The WtW grantees in the study sites designed programs intended to serve hard-to-employ welfare recipients and NCPs. Baseline information collected on samples of enrollees in nine of the 11 study sites for the evaluation suggests that the study programs have concentrated on TANF recipients with characteristics often associated with employment problems. High proportions of participants across the sites are African-Americans and Hispanics; and in some of the sites relatively large numbers have less than 12 years of education and self-reported disabilities. A forthcoming report from the evaluation will focus in detail on the characteristics of participants in comparison to all TANF recipients, as well as their employment outcomes.(19)

It is useful here to simply describe the characteristics of participants in the study programs, since they provide additional insight into the types of programs operating in the study sites and the variation across programs--the topic of the following two chapters.

Similar to TANF recipients nationally, most WtW participants are between 18 and 44 years of age, and the vast majority are women. The median age of participants when they enrolled in a program in study sites where baseline information was collected was between 28 and 34. Across the study sites, Phoenix serves a slightly younger group and JHU-Baltimore and West Virginia-HRDF serve a somewhat older group of participants. In terms of gender, although staff in nearly every site indicated they had hoped to serve NCPs, in only three of the study sites do males account for more than 15 percent of participants--Milwaukee-NOW (95 percent male), Yakima (25 percent), and West Virginia-HRDF (15 percent).

Many WtW participants in the study sites have characteristics often associated with disadvantages in the labor market--minority status, limited education, and mental and physical disabilities. With the exception of West Virginia's HRDF program, most participants in the study sites where baseline information was collected are nonwhite, suggesting they may face special challenges in the job market to the extent that racial discrimination exists. Fairly high proportions of participants are Hispanic in four of the study sites--in Phoenix (49 percent), Yakima (36 percent), Boston (36 percent) and Fort Worth (27 percent). Over 80 percent of the participants in Philadelphia-TWC, Nashville, Chicago, and Milwaukee-NOW are African-American (Chart III.2). Some sites, such as Boston, though, specifically developed programs to target certain groups by, for example, contracting with service providers that specialize in serving Hispanics or have offices or programs in neighborhoods with high minority populations.

Many WtW participants also have weak educational backgrounds. Across all sites in which baseline information was collected, about 46 percent of all participants have less than 12 years of education, similar to the proportion of TANF adults nationwide according to HHS data. Some WtW programs, however, are serving considerably more persons with less than a high school education (Chart III.3). In Philadelphia-TWC, Phoenix, and Yakima, over 55 percent of participants lack a high school diploma or GED. As discussed in the following chapter, some of the study programs developed strategies to address the low skills of their participants by

Chart III.2 Study Site Enrollee Characteristics: Race/ethnicity

Source: Program Baseline Information Forms. Yakima: Program Management Information System data.
National data: "TANF Report To Congress," Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.
Note: Administrative data unavailable for Indiana-RVR and JHU Long Beach sites.

 

Chart III.3 Study Site Enrollee Characteristics: Percent Without Hs Diploma or Ged

Source: Program Baseline Information Forms. Yakima: Program Management Information System data.
National data: "TANF Report To Congress," Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.
Note: Administrative data unavailable for Indiana-RVR and JHU Long Beach Sites.

implementing pre-employment components that include basic skills remedial instruction, often in conjunction with employment activities.

There is also some evidence that many WtW participants have disabilities that might interfere with work. Between 25 and 46 percent of participants across the sites reported at the time of enrollment that they had medical, physical, emotional, substance abuse, and/or other disabilities (Chart III.4). In Fort Worth, Nashville, and West Virginia-HRDF, over 40 percent report having a disability. Some programs specifically target those with disabilities; others incorporate services for those with special diagnostic or treatment needs into their overall program options. Some grantees, for example in Chicago and Fort Worth, contract with service

 

Chart III.4 Study Site Enrollee Characteristics: Disabilities, by Type

Source: Program Management Information Systems.
Note: Administrative data unavailable for Yakima, Indiana-RVR, and JHU Long Beach sites.

providers that specialize in serving individuals with particular disabilities or substance abuse problems.

The WtW-funded programs in the study sites thus appear to be targeting individuals with potentially serious employment problems. Future reports from the evaluation will address whether programs are serving individuals similar to the general TANF population or whether they have targeted certain groups. What seems clear from the basic program data presented here is that many participants in the study sites appear to have employment problems and that some of the programs in these sites specifically deal with individuals with certain problems, as discussed in more detail in the following two chapters.

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