National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Labor Market Liabilities

09/01/2004

Most WtW enrollees in the study sites had characteristics often associated with disadvantages in the labor market (Nightingale et al. 2002). These characteristics include being an unmarried parent with a young child, having little education, and experiencing work-limiting health problems.

Working can be a challenge for a single parent with a young child, and many of the WtW enrollees fit this description. In all but four sites, fewer than one in eight enrollees was married or cohabiting at program entry (Exhibit II.2). In general, the enrollees had one or more children, but there was great variation in the percentage who had a child aged 3 years or younger in the household  ranging from 11 percent in Baltimore County to 42 percent in Phoenix (Exhibit II.3).

Lack of education was common among WtW enrollees. In six of the study sites, more than one-third of enrollees were high school dropouts (Exhibit II.3). In Ft. Worth, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Phoenix, dropouts accounted for between 40 and 55 percent of WtW enrollees. The two sites that emphasized career advancement  Baltimore County and St. Lucie County  had the lowest high school dropout rates among WtW enrollees, at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively. Overall, it was clear that many WtW enrollees had already tried to acquire some form of employment-related credential; between 19 and 47 percent had received some type of vocational or technical degree or certificate by the time they entered the WtW program.

Work-limiting health problems were another factor that may have affected the employment prospects of WtW enrollees. In all but three sites, at least one in five enrollees had a work-limiting medical condition, physical disability, emotional or mental condition, drug or alcohol use, or other problem. This rate varied from 10 percent in St. Lucie County to 31 percent in Yakima.(19) There was substantial variation across the sites in the types of work-limiting health problems but, in general, a medical condition was the most common and drug or alcohol use the least.(20) The health problems or disabilities of another household member were a barrier to employment for about one in 10 WtW enrollees. These conditions, while less prevalent than the enrollees own health problems, made it difficult for them to work, attend training, or go to school.

 

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