National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Principal Barriers to Employment

09/01/2004

Among the WtW enrollees who were not employed two years after program entry, the most commonly cited reasons for lack of employment were (1) difficulty finding a job and (2) a health problem or disability (Appendix Exhibit B.4). In six of the sites, difficulty finding a job was the most common main barrier for employment. This was true for about one-third of the Milwaukee enrollees who were not employed and between one-sixth and one-third of their counterparts in the other study sites. A number of factors may have been underlying this reported difficulty, such as a weak local labor market, a bad match of the enrollees skills with the requirements of available jobs, and personal characteristics that present a challenge to employment. Given the additional liabilities that ex-offenders bring to the labor market, it is reasonable that WtW enrollees in Milwaukee were most likely to attribute their lack of employment to difficulty in finding a job.

An enrollees poor health or work-limiting disability was the most commonly cited reason for lack of employment in five of the study sites. About one in four enrollees in four sites  Nashville, Philadelphia, West Virginia, and Yakima  gave this explanation for their lack of a job one year after enrollment, as did about one in five enrollees in Phoenix. These high rates may have been due to higher incidences of poor health or disabilities in these sites and/or to a mix of available jobs that required higher levels of physical functioning.(43) For example, relatively large proportions of enrollees age 40 or older in Yakima (21 percent) and West Virginia (17 percent) may have made those groups more susceptible to health problems and disabilities.

A small number of other factors were important barriers to employment in some sites. In general, they represented a barrier for about 10 to 15 percent of enrollees without a job in these selected sites.

  • Participation in education or training programs was a barrier to employment in Nashville two years after program entry. One in five enrollees in this site was in high school at the time of enrollment and may have been completing formal education two years later.
  • Transportation problems were a barrier to employment in West Virginia and Ft. Worth. West Virginias TANF recipients often reside in rural areas but the states jobs are concentrated in urban centers, and Ft. Worth does not have extensive public transportation.
  • Getting arrested or facing legal problems was a barrier to employment for enrollees in Milwaukee, suggesting that problems with the law remained a substantial barrier to employment.(44)
  • Maternity leave, pregnancy and child care problems were a barrier to employment in St. Lucie County.

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