A Profile of Families Cycling on and off Welfare. What is the impact of pre-PRWORA welfare reform policies on cycling?


We utilize the random assignment design of the three evaluation sites to ask whether the program implemented at each site affected the likelihood of cycling. Each site's program was implemented pre-PRWORA and was designed to evaluate several aspects of change in welfare benefit receipt. While many of these policies were later enacted under PRWORA, they should not be seen as representing final PRWORA implementation. Our analysis is based on program group and control group differences in cycling rates, after controlling for the factors shown to affect cycling in Table 6.

The results of the analysis are presented in Table 12. The top panel of the table shows impacts for the full sample, which includes both new recipients to welfare and recipients in the middle of a welfare spell at the time of sample intake, whereas the lower panel shows impacts for new recipients.(38) This panel shows how results would differ when using a sample for which all spell lengths are known, at least since their month of the sample intake. The top panel of the table shows that the Connecticut Jobs First program had a small but statistically significant effect on the likelihood of cycling for the full sample. The program decreased the occurrence of welfare cycling by 2.9 percentage points, while increasing the likelihood of short-term recipiency by 8.2 percentage points.

The results for Florida FTP are similar in direction. Although the program did not affect the likelihood of welfare cycling, it did increase the likelihood of short-term recipiency and decreased the likelihood of long-term recipiency. In contrast, Vermont WRP appears to have had no effect on the likelihood of cycling or not cycling.

The lower panel of the table presents program impacts for the subsample of new recipients. The lower panel shows that the program effects largely disappear for new recipients, indicating that the effects were concentrated among ongoing recipients in Connecticut Jobs First and Florida FTP. The single exception is the program effect of Florida FTP on short-term recipiency, which appears to have increased the number of new recipients that became short-term recipients within the four-year observation period.

Table 12.
Program Impacts on the Percentage of Sample Members
Who Became Cyclers, Short-Term Recipients, and Long-Term Recipients
During Years 1 to 4 After Sample Intake
Program (%) Program Group Control Group Difference (Impact)
Full Sample
Connecticut Jobs First
  Cyclers 4.6 7.4 -2.9 **
  Short-term recipients 52.3 44.1 8.2 **
  Long-term recipients 43.1 48.4 -5.3 **
  Sample size 2,184 2,102  
Florida FTP
  Cyclers 13.6 14.8 -1.2
  Short-term recipients 59.1 52.0 7.1 **
  Long-term recipients 27.3 33.2 -5.9 **
  Sample size 1,150 1,124  
Vermont WRP
  Cyclers 9.4 8.0 1.4
  Short-term recipients 42.2 41.9 0.3
  Long-term recipients 48.4 50.1 -1.7
  Sample size 4,051 1,004  
New Recipients
Connecticut Jobs First
  Cyclers 6.2 7.7 -1.5
  Short-term recipients 60.5 58.1 2.4
  Long-term recipients 33.3 34.1 -0.9
  Sample size 860 858  
Florida FTP
  Cyclers 11.6 14.8 -3.2
  Short-term recipients 75.8 68.4 7.5 **
  Long-term recipients 12.6 16.9 -4.3
  Sample size 420 362  
Vermont WRP
  Cyclers 11.4 9.8 1.6
  Short-term recipients 56.3 56.2 0.1
  Long-term recipients 32.3 34.0 -1.7
  Sample size 1,383 315  
Sources: MDRC calculations from state and county administrative records.
Notes: Estimates were regression-adjusted using ordinary least squares, controlling for pre-random assignment (sample intake) characteristics of sample members and for environmental conditions.
"**" indicates statistical significance at the 0.05 level or smaller.
Results from logistic regressions performed on binary outcomes were consistent with the above results.

In summary, welfare policies that anticipated PWRORA  as represented by the Connecticut Jobs First, Florida FTP, and Vermont WRP programs  decreased cycling somewhat among ongoing recipients, but did not affect cycling among new recipients. This suggests that the programs were more effective on long-term recipients. This difference in findings between ongoing recipients and new recipients will be useful in interpreting the results in the next section, which analyzes the change in the incidence of cycling after welfare reform among a large sample of new recipients.

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