Performance Improvement 2007. How Can States Encourage Welfare Applicants, Recipients, and Those Leaving Welfare, to Seek, Retain and Advance in Employment?

01/01/2007

Summary:

This study assessed implementation and two-year follow-up effects of a job placement, employment retention, and advancement program for applicants and recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program in Texas. The Texas program is part of the national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) demonstration project, which is testing 15 such programs across the country. To encourage employment retention and advancement among working persons leaving welfare, the Texas program provided job search assistance and a monthly stipend of $200. The program was evaluated in Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, and Houston starting. The evaluation used random assignment to assign eligible individuals to a program group whose members participated in the program or to a control group, whose members participated in Texas’ standard welfare-to-work program (called “Choices”). The control group’s outcomes showed what would have happened in the absence of the ERA program. The ERA program was well implemented in Corpus Chris ti but experienced operational difficulties in the other two sites. Across all sites, the control group participated in a relatively strong welfare-to-work program.

The study findings reinforced the view that promoting employment retention and advancement among welfare recipients presents challenging implementation issues. The Texas ERA program did not produce consistent or large effects on employment and retention outcomes during the first two years of the study period. Program and control group results were similar during the pre-employment phase but had larger treatment differences during the post-hiring phase, primarily due to the stipend. A significant effort was needed to market the stipend, and program staff increasingly made a good-faith effort to do so. However, this effort may have been insufficient; people did not become eligible for the stipend until the expiration of a four-month period during which their earnings were not counted, in accord with “earned income disregard” welfare rules. Among those assigned to ERA, the percentage of individuals receiving stipends ranged from 20 to 30 percent at the different sites. Among those who found jobs and received the entire earned income disregard, estimated stipend receipt rates ranged from 40 to 55 percent. At one site, there were a few modest impacts on employment and retention that were concentrated among those who entered the program during the early phases of the study period; the extra income from the stipend was enough to generate a statistically significant effect on income. At another site, the program’s impacts were on initial employment rather than on employment retention. Researchers will continue to track employment outcomes for the study’s participants.

Report Title: The Employment Retention and Advancement Project: Results from the Texas ERA Site http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/welfare_employ/employ_retention/reports/results_texas/results_tx_title.html
Agency Sponsor: ACF, Administration on Children and Families
Federal Contact: Richards, Patrice, 202-205-8324
Performer: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation; New York, NY
PIC ID: 8281

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