National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Material Distress

09/01/2004

A high incidence of poverty did not necessarily mean that WtW enrollees experienced especially high levels of material distress. This evaluation measured five types of material distress that enrollees and their families may have experienced during the second year after program entry: inability to fully pay the rent or mortgage, eviction, inability to fully pay a utility bill, termination of a utility, and disconnection of the telephone. Among these, inability to fully pay the rent or mortgage was most common in Milwaukee, Phoenix, and St. Lucie County, whereas inability to pay a utility bill in its entirety was most common in the other sites (Appendix Exhibit B.18). An index created for this evaluation summarizes the five types of material distress on a 0-to-1 scale, with higher values indicating greater distress.(64),(65) Across the study sites, the mean value of the index ranged from 0.20 in Baltimore County and West Virginia to 0.28 in Ft. Worth and Yakima, corresponding to the experience of between one and one-and-a-half types of distress (Exhibit V.10, upper panel).

Material distress among WtW enrollees fell in some sites between the first and second years following program entry. The mean value of the index of material distress was significantly lower in the second year in five study sites (Exhibit V.10, bottom panel). Thus, even though mean household incomes and poverty rates were unchanged in all of the study sites, material distress diminished modestly in some sites with the passage of time following program entry.

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