National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Well-Being Two Years after Program Entry

09/01/2004

Instability in employment meant that many WtW enrollees who had been employed sometime during the second year following program entry were no longer working at the end of the year. As noted, only about 40 percent of enrollees in the non-JHU sites were employed at that time. The resulting diminished earnings among enrollees as a group forced many to rely on assistance from outside the household and caused end-of-the-year poverty rates to be higher than they would have been had employment been sustained.

Enrollees typically availed themselves of diverse sources of financial and nonfinancial support two years after entering the WtW program. In most of the study sites, TANF participation rates fell dramatically during the two years following enrollment in WtW. However, in nine of the sites, at least seven in ten enrollees continued to receive assistance from other government programs, especially food stamps, as did half of the enrollees in the remaining two sites. During the second year, about two-thirds also received assistance from extended family members or friends, whereas far fewer received help from community organizations.

Few WtW enrollees were self-sufficient one year after program entry. In the Baltimore County and St. Lucie County sites for the JHU program, about two-thirds of enrollees were self-sufficient (employed and not on TANF) two years after they entered WtW. In the other study sites, only about one-fourth to one-third of enrollees were self-sufficient, except in West Virginia, where 44 percent were. However, rates of self-sufficiency edged up by between 4 and 6 percentage points in four of the study sites between the first and second years following program entry.

Poverty was pervasive among WtW enrollees two years after entering the program, but its incidence was lower among those who were employed. Mean household incomes were stable from the end of the first year following program entry to the end of the second, as were poverty rates, which exceeded 60 percent in every site except Baltimore County. In contrast, Loprest (2001) reports a poverty rate of 52 percent among families nationwide that had recently left TANF. Obtaining and maintaining employment was often an important step out of poverty for WtW enrollees. The rate of poverty among enrollees who were employed at the end of the second year was 16 to 43 percentage points lower than that of enrollees who were not employed. But even for this group, the incidence of poverty was high in an absolute sense  in excess of 50 percent in 9 of the 11 study sites.

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