National Evaluation of the Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Final Report. Recent Work Experience

09/01/2004

Given their extensive histories of welfare receipt, it is not surprising that WtW enrollees had limited recent work experience. In eight of the nine study sites for which state UI data were available (West Virginia being the exception), just one-third to one-half of WtW enrollees were employed in each of the first three quarters of the year prior to program entry (Exhibit II.6). The West Virginia WtW grantee, the Human Resources Development Foundation (HRDF), served a predominantly rural area where the recent employment histories of enrollees were even more limited. Over most of the year before program entry, fewer than one in five HRDF enrollees was employed. Moreover, very few WtW enrollees in any of the study sites were steadily employed during the year prior to program entry. The share of enrollees with any record of employment during all four quarters before program entry ranged from only 7 percent in West Virginia to 32 percent in Baltimore County (Appendix Exhibit E.3).

In most of the study sites, enrollee employment rates decreased over the year prior to program entry (Exhibit II.6). This decrease is to be expected; WtW programs were generally designed to help people who were not working move into jobs, so some enrollees were bound to have been referred to WtW soon after losing a job. For example, in Ft. Worth and Phoenix, quarterly employment rates were initially in the 50 to 55 percent range, and decreased by 5 to 8 percentage points during the year prior to the quarter of program entry. In Philadelphia, Chicago, and Yakima, employment rates were lower  initially in the 35 to 40 percent range  but also decreased over the year prior to program entry. Even in West Virginia, a very low employment rate of 22 percent in the fourth quarter prior to program entry sank even lower, to 12 percent in the quarter prior to program entry.

In three study sites, however, employment rates increased over the year prior to program entry, largely because of the nature of the programs and their target populations (Exhibit II.6). In the two sites offering the JHU program (Baltimore County and St. Lucie County), enrollees rates of employment increased by about 10 percentage points over the year prior to the quarter of program entry; not surprising, considering the program was designed primarily to provide retention and advancement support to people already working. In Milwaukee, employment rates also increased, from 37 to 45 percent, reflecting the programs focus on men who were on probation or parole. These men had little or no access to TANF, and were transitioning from incarceration  which presented no opportunity for UI-covered employment  to an environment wherein employment opportunities existed (although often quite limited and many of the enrollees were unable to take advantage of them).

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