Performance Improvement 2007. How Can Former Welfare Recipients Be Successfully Encouraged to Obtain and Retain Employment, and Advance to Better Paying Jobs?



This study evaluated the effectiveness of South Carolina's "Move Up" program. Move Up sought to help former welfare recipients get jobs, work steadily, and advance in the labor market. Much is known about helping welfare recipients find jobs but not about helping them keep jobs or advance. Move Up (one of 15 related programs being tested across the country) operated during 2001-2005 in six rural counties. It sought to contact and help individuals who had left welfare between 1997 and 2000. Nonworking participants received help finding a job; working participants received help staying in their job or moving up. The core of the program was one-on-one case management. Staff provided or connected participants with services, including job search assistance, vocational training, and support services. The program provided some financial incentives to encourage participation and employment. For the evaluation, a random assignment research design was used; eligible individuals were assigned, through a lottery-like process, either to a program group, whose members were recruited for the program, or to a control group, whose members were not recruited or eligible for program services but who could use other services in the community. The program's effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over time. Staff located about three-fourths of the program group, most of whom had been off welfare for several years when they entered the study. Staff had to persuade individuals who were not required to do so to participate. Often they did not want or need the services. About half of the program group engaged in services during the year after they entered the study, few of them intensively.

The target population increased its participation in some employment-related services, such as vocational training, but only modestly. Overall, Move Up had little effect on employment rates, earnings, employment retention, or advancement. During the year after entering the study, members of the program and control groups had similar employment patterns. It appears unlikely that effects will emerge during the second year after study entry or later. The program did not affect welfare or food stamp receipt or income overall. The program did have positive effects on employment for three subgroups of sample members: those who become unemployed shortly before entering the study, those who left welfare less than two and a half years before entering the study, and those who left welfare because of a sanction or the state's time limit on benefit receipt. One county's program produced positive effects on employment; the other five did not. The research contractor will continue to track employment outcomes for the study's participants. Many the individuals in the study remain poor and in need of support.

Report Title: The Employment Retention and Advancement Project: Results from the South Carolina ERA Site
Agency Sponsor: ACF, Administration on Children and Families
Federal Contact: Richards, Patrice, 202-205-8324
Performer: MDRC; New York, NY
PIC ID: 8279

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"PerformanceImprovement2007.pdf" (pdf, 717.63Kb)

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