Leavers, Stayers, and Cyclers An Analysis of the Welfare Caseload. Results for Individual Programs

11/01/2002

The results for the pooled sample show that leavers are less disadvantaged than stayers, which is consistent with other research. Leavers are more educated, face fewer barriers to work, and have somewhat higher incomes. All the leavers left welfare as part of a welfare-to-work program, but some left under a program with financial incentives, and others left under time limits. Does the type of welfare program affect who leaves versus who stays and how leavers fare relative to stayers? 
 
The extent to which leavers differ from stayers in any given program depends on who is encouraged to leave or stay. If the program moves a fairly broad cross-section of recipients off the rolls, then leavers may be fairly similar to stayers. On the other hand, if only the most employable recipients leave, then the leavers might look very different from the average stayer. In programs with incentives (but without time limits), most of the people who leave welfare may be those whose earnings are high enough that they lose eligibility. In this case, leavers may look very different from stayers. At the other extreme is time limits, which may encourage a broader group of recipients to leave welfare, depending on how the time limit is administered. In FTP, for example, few extensions were granted to people who reached the limit, whereas in Jobs First extensions were typically granted if the recipient’s earnings were not high enough. 
 
Figure 1A presents selected characteristics of the three groups for each program. The programs are ordered by type: incentives only (WRP IO, MFIP IO); incentives plus mandates (WRP, MFIP); education-focused without incentives (NEWWS ED); employment-focused without incentives (NEWWS EMP); and time limits with incentives (Jobs First and FTP). With a few exceptions, the patterns found for the full sample hold for each individual program. For example, stayers across each program are less likely than their leaver counterparts to have completed high school, with the biggest differences being found in MFIP and FTP. Stayers are also more likely than leavers in each program to have two or more children. The differences by race also hold up across each program; a higher fraction of stayers than leavers are black, with the biggest difference appearing in FTP. In general, cyclers look more like leavers than stayers in each program, particularly in terms of education levels. 
 
Figure 1B shows several potential barriers to employment. (Data on several key barriers are not available for Connecticut’s Jobs First program.) Again, the overall pattern found for the pooled sample is also found for each program. Stayers in each program are more likely than leavers to report problems with child care and with transportation. The relatively high levels of reported child care problems for the NEWWS sample may be due to the fact that the evaluation took place several years earlier than the other programs. Funding for child care assistance has greatly increased since the early 1990s. Stayers are also less likely to have worked in the year prior to random assignment, except in the MFIP Incentives Only and the two time-limit programs. Finally, in all programs except FTP, stayers are more likely to have four or more barriers to work. 
 
Figure 1C presents data on income and material hardship. (Not all hardship measures are available from every survey.) For these outcomes, there is more variation across programs in terms of overall levels and in terms of differences between stayers and leavers. For example, stayers had the highest monthly incomes and the lowest poverty rates in the two MFIP programs and Jobs First—the programs with the most generous financial incentives. Although FTP included enhanced incentives along with time limits, welfare benefits are relatively low in Florida, so that a fairly high fraction of stayers were below poverty.  
 
Stayers in all programs had lower incomes than leavers, and the differences were largest in the two MFIP programs. This pattern is consistent with the idea that people who left welfare in these programs were those whose earnings were high enough to make them ineligible. The results are different for poverty rates. Although the biggest income differences between leavers and stayers were found in MFIP, this program, along with Jobs First, had the smallest differences in poverty. Although this seems counterintuitive, the incentives in both these programs allowed recipients to combine work and welfare until their income was above the poverty line. Thus, many stayers in these programs were already above the poverty line. 
 
Figures 1B and 1C present material hardship and food sufficiency. Leavers and cyclers report higher numbers of hardships in three of the four programs with available data, and the biggest differences are for the time-limit programs. In most of the programs, stayers are more likely to report being food-insufficient, although the differences are generally small.  
 
Figure 1A
Stayers, Cyclers, and Leavers, by Program:
Demographic Characteristics
 
Percent younger than 25 
Percent younger than 25
 
Percent completed high school
 
Percent completed high school
 
Percent black
 
Percent black
 
Percent with two or more children
 
Percent with two or more children
 
SOURCE:   MDRC calculations from administrative records and Baseline Information Forms 
from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
NOTES:  The analysis is restricted to the individuals in the Program Group.
 
Figure 1B
Stayers, Cyclers, and Leavers, by Program:
Barriers to Employment
 
Percent with problems arranging child care
 
Percent with problems arranging child care
 
Percent with transportation problems 
 
Percent with transportation problems
 
Percent who did not work in year 
prior to random assignment
 
Percent who did not work in year  prior to random assignment
 
Percent with four or more 
barriers to employment
 
Percent with four or more  barriers to employment
 
SOURCE:   MDRC calculations from administrative records and Private Opinion Surveys from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
NOTES:  The analysis is restricted to the individuals in the Program Group.
 
 
Figure 1C
Stayers, Cyclers, and Leavers, by Program:
Household Income and Material Hardship
 
Income in month before survey
 
Income in month before survey
 
Percent below poverty in month before survey 
 
Percent below poverty in month before survey
 
Number of Hardships
 
Number of Hardships
 
Percent with Food Insufficiency
 
Percent with Food Insufficiency
 
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from survey data from the evaluations listed in Table 1.  
NOTES:  This analysis is restricted to the individuals in the Program Group.
 
The results by program suggest that the type of welfare program does not have much influence on the ways in which leavers differ from stayers, at least with respect to demographic characteristics and employment barriers. For example, one hypothesis raised earlier was that leavers in incentives programs would look very different from stayers. And although leavers in these programs were more educated and had fewer employment barriers than stayers, these differences were not any bigger or more prevalent than in the time-limit or nonincentive programs. The incentives programs did, however, show larger differences in incomes between the two groups.
 
 
 

 

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