Targeted Help for the Hard-to-Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs. Employment

09/02/2004

While their approaches differed, a central goal of both the RSC and the TWC programs was to help participants become employed. To help participants find jobs quickly, the RSCs emphasized short-term job search and placement. In contrast, TWC sought to enhance participants' overall employability by providing them with work experience in paid transitional jobs for up to six months before helping them find permanent, unsubsidized jobs. Here, we examine the trends over time in employment for RSC and TWC participants.

Employment rates initially increased. The participants in both programs had sharp increases in employment soon after program entry (Figure II.2). TWC participants' employment rates rose to a high of 79 percent during the quarter of program enrollment, reflecting their immediate placement in paid transitional work positions.[1] RSC participants employment rate rose to a high of 59 percent in the first quarter after program enrollment, as they quickly obtained jobs through the program's job search and placement services or through their own efforts. Nevertheless, because participants in both programs were likely to be at a relatively low point in their employment just before program enrollment, their postenrollment outcomes are likely to reflect some natural recovery from these lows.[2]

Figure II.2
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Employment Rates Over Time

Figure II.2 Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study: Employment Rates Over Time.

Source: Administrative Data from State of Pennsylvania

After these initial increases, employment declined steadily over time. By six quarters after program enrollment, only 39 percent of TWC participants, and 49 percent of RSC participants, were employed (Figure II.2). TWC participants experienced a markedly steep decline in employment within the first three quarters of program enrollment, suggesting that many did not complete their transitional employment or move into unsubsidized employment. RSC participants experienced a smaller, yet consistent, decline in employment over the quarters after program entry.[3]

Because TWC participants primarily held transitional jobs in the first quarters after program enrollment while RSC participants held unsubsidized jobs, we do not focus on comparisons across these early quarters. The administrative data do not provide information on whether the employment was subsidized or not. Instead, we examine outcomes at least four quarters after program enrollment, when both TWC and RSC participants could have completed the program and reached unsubsidized employment (this is also true of subsequent analyses of earnings and TANF receipt).[4]

Despite these declines, overall employment success improved after program entry. In general, for both RSC and TWC participants, employment rates six quarters after program entry were higher than the highest preenrollment rates. Moreover, a higher proportion of both RSC and TWC participants were employed consistently during all four of the quarters after program entry (31 and 25 percent), compared to the four quarters before entry (15 and 10 percent; Table II.1). Further, RSC and TWC participants were more likely to be at least somewhat engaged in the labor market after program entry. More than three-quarters of RSC and TWC participants (76 and 84 percent, respectively) were employed at some point in the four quarters after program entry, compared with about two-thirds (65 and 64 percent, respectively) in the four quarters prior to program entry (Table II.1).[5]

Table II.1
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Consistency of Employment and Average Annual Earnings, Before and After Program Entry
(Percentages, Unless Otherwise Indicated)
  RSC TWC Significance
Four Quarters Before Program Entry
Ever employed 65.4 64.1 ***
   Employed in all four quarters 15.4 10.0 ***
   Employed in at least one quarter 50.0 54.1 ***
Never employed 34.6 35.9  
Average annual earnings (dollars) 2,204 1,561 ***
Four Quarters After Program Entry
Ever employed 75.5 84.0 ***
   Employed in all four quarters 31.3 25.4 ***
   Employed in at least one quarter 44.2 58.6 ***
Never employed 24.5 16.0 ***
Average annual earnings (dollars) 4,501 3,389 ***
Sample Size 2,338 2,543  
Administrative records data from state of Pennsylvania.

*/**/*** Difference between RSC and TWC estimates is statistically significant at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

Nevertheless, employment was unstable. Most RSC and TWC participants surveyed 12 months after sample enrollment reported that they had had at least one spell without employment in the year after program entry (90 and 95 percent, respectively; Table II.2). Their spells without employment made up a substantial proportion of the year after program entry. RSC and TWC participants who worked at some time in the year after program entry reported that, on average, they worked for only 61 and 49 percent of the year, respectively (Table II.2).

Table II.2
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Employment of Welfare-to-Work Enrollees During the Year After Program Entry
(Percentages, Unless Otherwise Indicated)
Employment Measure RSC TWC Significance
Number of Employment Spells
0 22.6 26.2 *
1 52.4 51.2  
2 20.1 17.3  
3 or more 4.9 5.3  
Number of Spells Without Employment
0 10.3 5.4 ***
1 53.9 56.1  
2 27.6 31.3 *
3 or more 8.2 7.2  
Proportion of YearAfter Program Entry Employed
All enrollees 47.0 36.0 ***
If employed sometime during year 61.0 49.0 ***
Sample Size 944 1,110  
Source: 2001-2003 12-month follow-up survey of Welfare-to-Work enrollees.
Note 1: The survey data have been weighted to be representative of all WtW enrollees in the respective sites. Survey item nonresponse may cause the sample sizes for specific variables to be smaller than those shown. Rounding may cause percentages to sum to something other than 100.
*/**/*** Difference between RSC and TWC estimates is statistically significant at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

For TWC participants, some instability is likely to reflect movement from transitional jobs to unsubsidized jobs.  The employment rate of TWC participants declines most sharply in the first three quarters after program entry, when they would be leaving their transitional jobs to look for unsubsidized work. In the follow-up survey, more than one-third of TWC participants reported that they left their first job because the work period ended (Table II.3).[6]

Table II.3
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Circumstances of Departure from the First Job Held After Enrolling in Welfare-to-Work
(Percentages)
Circumstance of Departure

RSC

TWC

Significance

Reason for Departure from Job
Quit 44.7 31.9 ***
Laid off 12.7 8.4 **
Fired 13.3 10.2  
Work period ended 15.0 35.2 ***
Self-employed job ended 9.5 6.0 **
Other reason 4.9 8.4 **
Sample Size 439 605  
2001-2003 12-month follow-up survey of Welfare-to-Work enrollees.
Notes:
The survey data have been weighted to be representative of all WtW enrollees in the respective sites. Survey item nonresponse may cause the sample sizes for specific variables to be smaller than those shown. Rounding may cause percentages to sum to something other than 100.

The statistics presented in this table are for WtW enrollees who left the first job that they held on or following their entry into WtW. If there was more than one first job, then the principal job  the job with the most hours worked in a typical week  was selected. In the event of a tie on hours worked, several additional criteria were applied in sequence.

*/**/*** Difference between RSC and TWC estimates is statistically significant at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

The employment instability among Philadelphia WtW participants is typical of that of similar groups. The employment instability observed for the RSC and TWC participants is consistent with findings of other research on the employment of former TANF recipients. Andersson et al. (2003) indicate that the retail and service industries  where RSC and TWC participants most commonly worked (Table II.4)  provided unstable employment. Moreover, an analysis of the Philadelphia caseload from 1997 to 1999 indicates that, while employment increased, much of it was short-term and unstable (Michalopoulos 2003).

Table II.4
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Industry of Welfare-to-Work Enrollees Who Worked One Year After Program Entry
(Percentages)
Industry RSC TWC Significance
Services 58.0 67.2 **
Retail Trade 21.0 17.7  
Manufacturing 4.7 2.2 *
Transportation and Utilities 6.5 2.7 ***
Wholesale Trade 1.7 0.2 **
Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate 3.7 4.1  
Public Administration 3.4 4.8  
Other 1.2 1.2  
Sample Size 476 420  
Source: 2001-2003 12-month follow-up survey of Welfare-to-Work enrollees.
Notes:
The survey data have been weighted to be representative of all WtW enrollees in the respective sites. Survey item nonresponse may cause the sample sizes for specific variables to be smaller than those shown. Rounding may cause percentages to sum to something other than 100.

The statistics presented in this table pertain to the principal job held by a sample member at the time of the survey interview. If the sample member held more than one job at that time, then the principal job was identified as the job on which the most hours were worked in a typical week. In the event of a tie on hours worked, the job with the earliest starting date.

*/**/*** Difference between RSC and TWC estimates is statistically significant at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

RSC participants were more likely to move successfully from one job to another. Most RSC and TWC participants who found a job in the year after program enrollment left that job within the year (60 and 73 percent, respectively; Table II.5). Among those who left their first job, RSC participants were more likely than TWC participants to find another job by one year after program enrollment (63 versus 53 percent, respectively).[7] However, because their transitional jobs ended, more TWC participants had to search for another job during the year following program entry.

Table II.5
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Work Status One Year After Program Entry
(Percentages)
Work Status RSC TWC Significance
Employed During Year After Program Entry
Still employed at first job 1 year after program entry 39.9 27.4 ***
Left first job during year after program entry 60.1 72.5 ***
   Left first job during year after program entry, employed at another job 1 year after program entry 37.9 38.2  
   Left first job during year after program entry, not employed 1 year after program entry 22.2 34.3 ***
Sample Size 733 826  
Source: 2001-2003 12-month follow-up survey of Welfare-to-Work enrollees.
Notes:
The survey data have been weighted to be representative of all WtW enrollees in the respective sites. Survey item nonresponse may cause the sample sizes for specific variables to be smaller than those shown. Rounding may cause percentages to sum to something other than 100.

The statistics presented in this table pertain to the principal job a sample member held at the time of the survey interview. If the sample member held more than one job at that time, then the principal job was identified as the job on which the most hours were worked in a typical week. In the event of a tie on hours worked, the job with the earliest starting date.

*/**/*** Difference between RSC and TWC estimates is statistically significant at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

 

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