Moving People from Welfare to Work. Lessons from the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies.. Adult Education: What factors enhance or diminish its beneficial effects?


  • The gains in credential receipt and literacy skills that welfare recipients can reap from adult education programs seem to be related to the length of participation in and the quality of such programs.

How long welfare recipients participate in adult education programs can enhance or diminish such programs' beneficial impacts. Overall, the typical participant in an adult education program received the equivalent of about two-thirds of a year of high school instruction. A nonexperimental 4 examination of the association between credential receipt or skills improvement and length of stay suggested several patterns. Shorter stays were associated with GED receipt and gains in math skills: Enrollment in GED preparation classes for more than six months did not increase GED receipt, and most people's math skills no longer improved after six months of enrollment in basic education classes. Longer stays, in contrast, were associated with gains in reading skills: Enrollment in basic education classes for less than one year did not measurably improve reading skills.

The size of education benefits also seemed to depend on the characteristics of education providers. For instance, nonexperimental comparisons revealed that the higher the average level of teachers' experience and education, the larger the improvements in recipients' reading and math skills. The size of education benefits did not, however, seem to be affected by the fact that welfare recipients in these adult education classes were required to be there: Among adult education enrollees who went to classes, those in the program groups (almost all of whom enrolled to meet a welfare requirement) experienced gains in GED receipt and math and reading skills comparable to those experienced by adult education participants in the control groups (all of whom attended classes voluntarily).