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


For the pooled sample, nonworking leavers are more disadvantaged than working leavers, in terms of demographic characteristics and barriers to employment. But they do not appear to be significantly worse off in terms of income and hardship, owing partly to the fact that they were more likely to have returned to welfare by the time of the survey. How do these differences vary across the welfare programs? Are nonworking recipients especially disadvantaged in the time-limit programs, for example, relative to the incentives-only programs?

As is the case with stayers versus leavers, any variation across programs in terms of workers versus nonworkers should be related to what types of people left welfare under each program and to their reasons for leaving. In a program with incentives only, for example, people who leave welfare for work may be the most employable group, since their earnings are probably high enough to make them ineligible for benefits. On the other hand, people who leave without work under such a program may leave for reasons unrelated to their employability, such as marriage or other changes in household composition. Thus, it is not obvious which program might produce the biggest differences between working and nonworking leavers. The fraction of leavers who are nonworkers is similar across the programs, ranging from a low of 32 percent in MFIP Incentives Only to a high of 38 percent in FTP.

Figure 2A presents selected characteristics of nonworking versus working leavers, by program. In several cases, the patterns found for the pooled sample also hold for the individual programs. Across all programs except Jobs First, for example, nonworking leavers are older than working leavers, or a smaller percentage are under age 25. Nonworkers are also less educated than workers in every program, with the biggest differences in MFIP Incentives Only and FTP. For race and number of children, the results are not consistent across programs, owing largely to MFIP. In both MFIP programs, nonworkers are more likely to be black and more likely to have two or more children.
The results for employment barriers are more consistent across programs (Figure 2B). In all programs, nonworkers are more likely to report barriers to work, are less likely to have worked in the year prior to random assignment, and are more likely to face four or more barriers to work. The sizes of the differences between groups are also similar across programs. 
Figure 2C presents data on income and material hardship. Although the pooled results show that nonworkers had similar incomes as workers, this is not true across all programs. In MFIP Incentives Only and Jobs First, for example, nonworkers had much lower incomes than workers and were much more likely to be poor. This difference arises not because nonworkers in these programs are especially poor but because working leavers have much higher incomes than in the other programs. Again, this is consistent  with the generous incentives offered in these programs, in which working recipients must earn higher amounts to become ineligible for benefits.  
In sum, people who left welfare without work differ in several ways from those who left with work, and the pattern of differences is fairly consistent across programs. Although there are no clear patterns across broad program types, two programs stand out. In MFIP Incentives Only and FTP, the differences between the groups in terms of education and barriers to work are relatively large. In MFIP, the big differences may be driven by the working leavers, who are an especially employable group. In FTP, the differences may be driven by the nonworking leavers, who are especially disadvantaged. In fact, they may be the most disadvantaged: Figures 2A and 2B show that nonworking leavers in FTP have the lowest education levels of any other group in any other program and are also the most likely to have four or more barriers to work. 


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