Targeted Help for the Hard-to-Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs. Characteristics of RSC and TWC Participants


The RSC and TWC programs were designed to serve different groups of WtW-eligible people. Under the original client-flow process, the RSCs provided basic reemployment assistance to most WtW-eligible people in Philadelphia. The TWC program would then provide more intensive assistance to those WtW-eligible people who, after a short time at the RSCs, were found to have limited work experience or other noTable barriers to employment or who had not found a job after 30 days of RSC work search activities.[1] We can examine a number of participant characteristics to clarify how different the RSC and TWC participant populations ultimately were. These characteristics were not all necessarily used to determine the appropriate program referral and evaluate their participants employment needs. Rather, they reflect the mix of participants who ultimately participated in each program (for example, educational attainment and prior work experience were used, but marital status and number of children were not). Because of Pennsylvanias client choice orientation, even though the programs were to focus on serving different populations, little formal assessment took place to sort clients to the appropriate program. Initially, the RSCs were to refer their unsuccessful participants to the TWC, but because of underenrollment, TWC conducted its own outreach. As a result, the differences in the characteristics of participants referred to each program may be less clear than the original distinctions in program intent might have suggested. Baseline information and administrative data for the preenrollment period suggest that, while RSC and TWC participants were similar in many demographic characteristics, the average RSC participant was somewhat less disadvantaged. We found statistically significant differences in the household structure, educational attainment, work history, and public assistance receipt of RSC and TWC participants. In general, however, these differences were small, suggesting that both programs served groups that were fairly disadvantaged.

Nearly all RSC and TWC participants were young, minority, single women. Both programs served primarily women, but the RSCs were more likely to serve some men (5 percent, compared with 1 percent among TWC participants; see Table III.1). On average, participants in both programs were 32 years old. The majority of both RSC and TWC participants were African American, but RSC participants were somewhat more likely to be Hispanic (15 percent, compared with 7 percent of TWC participants) or white (6 percent, compared with 2 percent of TWC participants). Few participants in either the RSC or the TWC programs were married at baseline, but TWC participants were more likely to have never been married (79 percent, compared with 70 percent among RSC participants).


Table III.1
Philadelphta WTW Study:
Baseline Characteristcs of RSC and TWC Enrollees
Baseline Characteristics RSC Enrollees TWC Enrollees Significance
Demographic Characteristics
Age Category
   Younger than 20 years 0 0 ns
  20 to 29 years 43 44 ns
  30 to 39 years 42 41 ns
  40 years or older 16 15 ns
Average Age 32.3 32.1 ns
  Female 95 99 ***
  Hispanic 15 7 ***
  White non-Hispanic 6 2 ***
  Black non-Hispanic 78 89 ***
  Other non-Hispanic 2 2 ns
Household Structure
Marital Status
  Married 6 3 ***
  Cohabiting 7 6 ns
  Separated/divorced/widowed 17 13 ***
  Never married 70 79 ***
Number of Children in Household
  0 5 5 ns
  1 to 2 56 49 ***
  3 to 5 35 41 ***
  6 or more 4 5 ns
Average Number of Children in Household 2.4 2.7 ns
Age of Youngest Child in Household
  Younger than 3 years 13 23 ***
  Younger than 5 years 39 46 ***
Average Age of Youngest Child in Household 6.0 6.8 ns
Educational Attainment
  High school dropout 43 47 ns
  Still attending high school or GED program 3 6 ***
  GED 5 4 ns
  High school diploma 17 15 ns
  Postsecondary degree 3 2 ns
  Vocational/technical certificate 29 26 ns
At Least High School Diploma or GED 54 47 **
Employment History
Employment at Baseline
  Currently employed 8 8 ns
  Employed within the past year 55 47 ***
  Employed more than a year ago 29 34 **
  Never employed in the past 7 10 **
Welfare Receipt
TANF Receipt at Baseline
  Currently receiving 90 91 ns
  Received in the past but not currently receiving 6 5 ns
  Never received 4 3 ns
Total Time on TANF or AFDC
  Never on TANF or AFDC 4 3 ns
  1 to 24 months 30 23 ***
  25 to 60 months 28 33 **
  More than 60 months 37 41 *
Health Problems
Work-Limiting Problem
  Own 21 20 ns
  Other household member 12 13 ns
Type of Work-Limiting Problem (Own)
  Medical condition 9 10 ns
  Physical disability 3 2 ns
  Mental health or substance abuse problem 4 5 ns
Sample Size 1,109 1,282  
Source: Baseline information forms of Welfare-to-Work participants, MPR.
ns = not significant.
*/**/*** Significantly different from zero at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

RSC participants had fewer young children. While the average number of minor children living with RSC and TWC participants at baseline was similar (2.4 and 2.7 children, respectively), TWC participants were more likely to have three or more minor children living with them (46 percent, compared with 39 percent of RSC participants). The average age of the youngest child in RSC and TWC participants households was similar (6 and 7 years old, respectively), but TWC participants were significantly more likely to have a child under age 5 living with them (46 percent, compared with 39 percent of RSC participants). This suggests that, on average, TWC participants had more minor children living with them and that these children included children who were both younger and older than the children of RSC participants.

RSC participants had higher educational attainment.  RSC participants were more likely to have at least a high school diploma or GED (54 percent, compared with 47 percent for TWC participants).  Further, RSC participants were somewhat more likely to have a postsecondary degree or vocational/technical certificate (32 percent, compared with 28 percent for TWC participants), although this difference was not statistically significant.

RSC participants were more likely to report some work history and to have worked consistently during the year before program entry.  At baseline, 7 percent of RSC enrollees reported never having worked at a job for pay, compared with 10 percent of TWC enrollees.  In addition, RSC participants were more likely to report having been employed at some point in the year before enrollment (55 percent, compared with 47 percent for TWC participants).  TWC participants were more likely to report that their last job had ended more than a year ago (34 percent, compared with 29 percent for RSC participants).  Administrative data show comparable proportions of RSC and TWC participants, with some earnings in the four quarters before program enrollment (65 and 64 percent, respectively; Table II.1).  Nevertheless, a larger share of RSC participants (15 percent, compared with 10 percent for TWC participants) had earnings in all four preenrollment quarters.

RSC participants were less likely to report long-term receipt of public assistance.  Most RSC and TWC participants (90 and 91 percent) reported receiving TANF at baseline.  The TANF administrative data show even higher rates of receipt of TANF at baseline among RSC and TWC participants (94 and 98 percent).[2]  Both groups also displayed steady TANF receipt in the year before enrolling in WtW  70 percent of RSC participants and 80 percent of TWC participants received TANF in all four quarters prior to the quarter of WtW enrollment, based on administrative data (Table II.7).  At baseline, however, slightly more TWC participants reported having received public assistance for five or more years (41 percent, compared with 37 percent for RSC participants).

Similar proportions of RSC and TWC participants reported having work-limiting health problems.  About one-fifth of both RSC and TWC participants reported having a health problem that limited their ability to work, including medical conditions, physical disabilities, and mental health or substance abuse problems (Table III.1).  Another 12 percent of RSC participants and 13 percent of TWC participants reported that they were responsible for another household member with a health problem and that this responsibility limited their ability to work.  Hence, although work-limiting health problems may have been an important factor in the employment outcomes of RSC and TWC participants, they are likely to have influenced both groups similarly.

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