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


There are several reasons to expect that the differences between stayers will differ by program. Programs with generous incentives should encourage people to stay on welfare who would have otherwise left, since they can now earn more and remain eligible for some benefits. Thus, stayers in these programs might be somewhat less disadvantaged than stayers in the control groups. They should also have higher incomes, since they can keep more of their welfare benefits while working. On the other hand, in programs that encouraged people to leave welfare, those who stayed under the program being tested might be expected to be more disadvantaged than those who stayed under the old system. 

Table 12 presents each program’s effects on the percentage of the sample that stayed on welfare. As expected, the four programs with incentives but not time limits—especially the two forms of MFIP—increased the number of stayers, while the other programs reduced the number of stayers. Except for MFIP, however, the differences are not large, ranging from 4 to 10 percentage points. The smaller the effect of the program, the less likely there are to be noticeable differences in the characteristics of the two groups of stayers. 
Table 12
The Percentage of Recipients Defined as Stayers,
by Program
Program Program Group Control Group Difference
WRP, Incentives Only
34.9 30.7 4.2
MFIP, Incentives Only
56.6 35.1 21.5
WRP 30.7 30.7 0.0
MFIP 47.7 35.1 12.6
NEWWS, Education focused 33.1 37.2 -4.1
NEWWS, Employment focused 27.9 37.2 -9.3
Jobs First 37.4 43.8 -6.4
FTP 4.9 14.3 -9.4
Sample Size  12.271 20.675  
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from administrative records from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
Figures 3A and 3B present the results. The differences in demographic characteristics are generally small across programs, with stayers in the control groups generally looking more disadvantaged than their program group counterparts. This pattern is not consistent with the results for the pooled sample, and a look across the individual programs shows that the NEWWS education-focused sample may have dominated the pooled results. For example, in all programs except NEWWS, program group stayers reported fewer barriers to work than control group stayers. The bottom panel of Figure 3B presents differences in the number of months worked during the first three years after random assignment. The two programs with the most generous financial incentives (MFIP and Jobs First) led to the biggest increases in work among stayers. 
Figure 3A
Control and Program Group Stayers, by Program:
Demographic Characteristics
Percent younger than 25
Percent completed high school
Percent black
Percent with two or more children
SOURCE:   MDRC calculations from administrative records and Baseline Information Forms from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
Figure 3B
Control and Program Group Stayers, by Program:
Barriers to Employment
Percent with transportation problems
Percent who did not work in year prior to random assignment
Percent with four or more barriers to employment
Number of months worked during 3 years after random assignment
SOURCE:   MDRC calculations from administrative records and Private Opinion Surveys from the evaluations listed in Table 1.
Figure 3C
Control and Program Group Stayers, by Program:
Household Income and Material Hardship
Income in month before survey
Percent below poverty in month before survey
Number of Hardships
Percent with Food Insufficiency 0
SOURCE:  MDRC calculations from survey data from the evaluations listed in Table 1.  
Figure 3C presents data on stayers’ income and material hardship. The generally low poverty rates in Minnesota (MFIP) and the high rates in Florida (FTP) reflect the differences in welfare benefit levels in these two states. In terms of program-control differences, incomes will differ between the two groups if one is more likely to work than the other or if one receives more generous welfare benefits. The biggest differences in income and poverty are for MFIP, FTP, and Jobs First, where the welfare disregards were the most generous. Program group stayers in Jobs First—with the most generous incentives—were significantly less likely to be poor than their control group counterparts.
In sum, the results show that the welfare-to-work programs in general have not left a group of recipients on the caseload that is more disadvantaged than the group that would have stayed in the absence of the reforms. This may not be very surprising, given that the programs did not produce dramatic increases or decreases in welfare receipt. If anything, the stayers in the incentives programs may have better employment prospects, since they worked more during the follow-up period. The incentives programs also left stayers better off economically than their control group counterparts. Although this may not be related to the ability to eventually leave welfare, increasing incomes for low-income families can have a range of other positive benefits (Knox, Miller, and Gennetian, 2000). 


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