Performance Improvement 2007. What Lessons Can Be Learned by Combining Evaluation Data from Several Welfare-to-Work Programs?



This study analyzed data from 30 welfare-to-work research demonstrations implemented during the 1980s and 1990s. The demonstrations had sought to improve outcomes related to moving recipients of welfare toward greater self-sufficiency. The demonstration evaluations measured progress of welfare recipients toward increased employment and earnings and toward a reduction in receipt of cash welfare benefits. This study analyzed how aspects of the demonstrations influenced meeting these self-sufficiency goals. This study also determined which aspects of the demonstrations had positive impacts on child well-being outcomes. All demonstrations included in the study had been evaluated using random assignment methods. Recipient participation was mandatory in the welfare-to-work programs in all but four of the demonstrations (thus, this study said little about voluntary programs).

Aspects of the demonstrations positively impacting employment outcomes included: job search activities, time limits and sanctions on recipients for not meeting various work requirements. These demonstrations tended to work better in strong labor markets. There was some evidence that positive impacts were stronger for recipients considered disadvantaged. Disadvantaged persons include those that are long term recipients and that have little recent work history. Evidence was weak regarding the affect of education or work experience on employment outcomes. The study also found small impacts, with regard to receipt of welfare benefits as measured by a reduction in the amount of cash benefits or a reduction in the time spent receiving benefits. In this regard, sanctions were found to have had positive affects, and increases in earned income disregards were found to have had negative impacts. Since, for the most part, the demonstrations included in this study were not focused on child outcomes, the data regarding impacts on children were less extensive and less definitive. The impacts these demonstrations had on emotional/behavioral problems in children were small and varied greatly among the demonstrations. To the extent data were available, however, the impacts on emotional/behavioral problems were found to be less positive for school-age children than for younger children or for adolescents. The affect of sanctions, participation of adults in basic education, and participation in unpaid work appeared to be positive while higher earned income disregards (income not counted for determining cash eligibility) and time limits was associated with negative impacts on children.

Report Title: Report on a Meta-analysis of Welfare-to-Work Programs
Agency Sponsor: ACF, Administration on Children and Families
Federal Contact: Sternbach, Leonard, 415-437-7671
Performer: University of Maryland; College Park, MD
PIC ID: 8276

View full report


"PerformanceImprovement2007.pdf" (pdf, 717.63Kb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®