Targeted Help for the Hard-to-Employ: Outcomes of Two Philadelphia Welfare-to-Work Programs. Service Receipt and Program Completion

09/02/2004

Differences in the services that the RSC and TWC programs offered and in how intensely or completely participants engaged in these services could also have influenced participant outcomes.  Differences in RSC and TWC services were largely by design.  That is, the RSC and TWC programs targeted somewhat different groups of WtW-eligible clients and, consistent with such targeting, emphasized different services (placement assistance versus work experience) and offered different levels of services (30 days versus six months).  In contrast, participants levels of engagement and success in completing program services commonly reflect a combination of both program and participant factors.  For example, participants can become more or less engaged in a program because of the types or convenience of services offered.  The overall duration and intensity of services offered can also influence participants likelihood of completion.  Program engagement levels can also reflect differences in both observable and unobservable participant characteristics (that is, self-selection).  That is, motivated clients usually participate willingly and seek services, while harder-to-serve clients may avoid services or resist participation requirements.  Next, we examine the types and levels of services that RSC and TWC participants received in the year after WtW enrollment, as well as the likelihood of their completing the program.

Most RSC and TWC participants reported receiving some labor market services.At followup, a majority of both RSC and TWC participants reported having received some type of labor market service during the year after enrollment. These services included job readiness training, job search or placement services, and life skills or self-management training.  More TWC participants (85 percent, compared with 79 percent of RSC participants) said they had received labor market services (Table III.2).

Consistent with differences in program design, TWC participants reported receiving more intensive labor market services.  Based on survey responses, we estimated the median number of days of job readiness training for TWC service recipients at 44 days, compared with 24 days for RSC service recipients.  TWC service recipients also reported receiving more job search or placement assistance and more life skills or self-management training (Table III.2).

Table III.2
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Receipt of Employment Preparation Services
During the Year after Enrolling in Welfare-to-Work

  RSC Enrollees TWC Enrollees Significance
Receipt of Labor Market Services (Percentages)
 Job readiness training 70.7 80.1 ***
 Job search or placement services 68.6 72.6 *
 Life skills or self-management training 39.7 51.6 ***
 Any Labor Market Service (Any of the Above) 78.7 85.1 ***
Duration of Labor Market Services for Those Who Received Them  (Median Number of Days)

Job readiness training

23.8 44.0 NA
 Job search or placement services 3.5 5.5 NA
 Life skills or self-management training 14.0 23.8 NA
Source: 2001-2003 12-month follow-up survey of Welfare-to-Work participants, MPR.
NA = not available.
*/**/*** Significantly different from zero at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

Placement success serves as a proxy for completion.  We used program MIS records to examine the proportions of RSC and TWC participants who were successfully placed in unsubsidized employment through the programs and, hence, appeared to complete program services.  Our approach was driven largely by limitations in the available MIS data.[6]  Nevertheless, this seemed a reasonable approach in the context of the RSC and TWC programs, since neither terminated clients because staff determined they could not be successfully placed in unsubsidized employment.  That is, both programs were committed to placing all enrolled WtW participants in unsubsidized jobs and would terminate a client only if he or she stopped participating.  Moreover, lack of placement success through the programs does not necessarily predict poorer outcomes for RSC or TWC participants.  The participants who were terminated from either program without being placed in unsubsidized employment could have been more motivated and committed to finding employment on their own, they could have been the hardest-to-serve, or they could have been a combination of these two types.

TWC participants were less likely to reach the point of unsubsidized job placement.  About 36 percent of TWC participants were placed in unsubsidized employment through the program, compared with 59 percent of RSC participants (Figure III.4).[7]  This finding is not surprising, given the longer duration and higher intensity of the TWC program.  TWC participants may have faced a higher bar for program completion, that is, reaching placement in an unsubsidized job after successfully completing their transitional position.  In contrast, RSC participants immediately focused on securing placement in unsubsidized work.  Given their somewhat greater disadvantage, this objective may have been hard for TWC participants to achieve.

Figure III.4
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Rates of Completion of the RSC and TWC Programs

Figure III.4 Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study: Rates of Completion of the RSC and TWC Programs.

Source: Administrative Data from State of Pennsylvania

Outcomes varied by participants completion of either program.  People who complete program interventions typically have better outcomes than those who do not, and, as discussed, differences in program completion tend to reflect both participant and program factors.  To explore whether the different rates of completion observed for the RSC and TWC programs could have made a difference in participant outcomes, we examined separately the employment rates, quarterly earnings, and rates of TANF receipt for RSC and TWC participants placed in unsubsidized jobs through the programs (program completers) and for RSC and TWC participants who had no program record of unsubsidized job placement (noncompleters).  Completers in both the RSC and TWC programs had higher employment rates, higher quarterly earnings, and lower rates of TANF receipt than their noncompleter counterparts (Figures III.5, III.6, and III.7).  These findings suggest (not surprisingly) that remaining sufficiently engaged in either program to reach the point of unsubsidized job placement may have benefited people more than merely participating.  The findings also suggest that differences in rates of program completion may have contributed to the observed differences in average RSC and TWC outcomes.

Figure III.5
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Employment Rates Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters"

Figure III.5 Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study: Employment Rates Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters".

Source: Administrative Data from State of Pennsylvania

Figure III.6
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Earnings Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters"

Figure III.6 Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study: Earnings Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters".

Source: Administrative Data from State of Pennsylvania

Figure III.7
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Rates of TANF Receipt Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters"

Figure III.7 Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study: Rates of Tanf Receipt Over Time for RSC and TWC "Completers" Versus "Noncompleters".

Source: Administrative Data from State of Pennsylvania

For both programs, there were important differences in the characteristics of completers versus noncompleters.  Relative to RSC completers, RSC noncompleters were more likely to be African American and unmarried, have a child under age 3 in their household, lack a high school diploma or GED, lack recent work experience (within the past year), be long-term recipients of public assistance (60 months or more), and be responsible for another person with a health or other condition that limits their ability to work (Table III.3).  There were fewer significant differences in the baseline characteristics of TWC completers versus noncompleters.  Relative to the completers, TWC noncompleters were more likely to lack a high school diploma or GED.[8]

Table III.3
Philadelphia WTW Outcomes Study:
Baseline Characteristics of RSC and TWC enrollees,
by Program Completion

Baseline Characteristics RSC Completers RSC Noncompleters Significance TWC Completers TWC Noncompleters Significance
Demographic Characteristics
Age Category
  Younger than 20 years 0 0 ns 0 0 ns
  20 to 29 years 45 43 ns 44 43 ns
  30 to 39 years 41 41 ns 41 41 ns
  40 years or older 14 16 ns 15 16 ns
Average Age 31.8 32.3 ns 32.4 32.2 ns
Gender
  Female 96 98 *** 98 97 ns
Race/Ethnicity
  Hispanic 12 10 ns 9 12 ns
  White non-Hispanic 6 3 *** 2 4 ns
  Black non-Hispanic 79 85 *** 88 82 **
  Other non-Hispanic 3 2 ns 1 2 ns
Household Structure
Marital Status
  Married 7 3 *** 3 5 *
  Cohabiting 5 6 ns 6 6 ns
  Separated/divorced/widowed 17 14 * 14 15 ns
  Never married 71 76 ** 77 74  ns
Number of Children in Household
  0 4 5 ns 4 5 ns
  1 to 2 57 50 *** 48 54 *
  3 to 5 33 40 *** 40 37 ns
  6 or more 5 5 ns 8 4 ***
Average Number of Children in Household 2.4 2.6 ns 2.9 2.4 ns
Age of Youngest Child in Household
  Younger than 3 years 13 20 *** 24 17 ***
  Younger than 5 years 42 43 ns 47 41 **
Average Age of Youngest Child in Household 6.6 6.2 ns 6.0 6.5 ns
Education
Educational Attainment
  High school dropout 38 45 *** 35 45 ***
  Still attending high school or GED program 3 6 *** 5 5 ns
  GED 5 4 ns 5 5 ns
  High school diploma 20 15 ** 19 16 ns
  Postsecondary degree 3 2 ns 3 3 ns
  Vocational/technical certificate 32 28 * 34 27 **
At Least High School Diploma or GED 59 49 *** 60 50 ***
Employment History
Employment at Baseline
  Currently employed 9 8 ns 7 8 ns
  Employed within the past year 58 48 *** 53 51 ns
  Employed more than a year ago 28 33 *** 33 32 ns
  Never employed in the past 5 10 *** 8 9 ns
Welfare Receipt
TANF Receipt at Baseline
  Currently receiving 92 91 ns 94 90 **
  Received in the past but not currently receiving 5 5 ns 3 6 ns
  Never received 3 3 ns 2 4 *
Total Time on TANF or AFDC
  Never on TANF or AFDC 3 3 ns 2 4 *
  1 to 24 months 33 24 *** 22 28 *
  25 to 60 months 29 31 ns 35 30 **
More than 60 months 35 41 ** 40 39 ns
Health Problems
Work-Limiting Problem
  Own 19 21 ns 18 22 ns
  Other household member 7 11 ** 12 13 ns
Type of Work-Limiting Problem (Own)
  Medical condition 7 11 ** 8 10 ns
  Physical disability 4 2 * 2 3 ns
  Mental health or substance abuse problem 3 5 * 5 5 ns
Sample Size 633 386   427 636  
Source: Baseline information forms of Welfare-to-Work participants, Mathematica Policy Research.
ns = not significant.
*/**/*** Significantly different from zero at the .10/.05/.01 level, two-tailed test.

Both TWC completers and TWC noncompleters were similar to RSC noncompleters.  As noted, there were few observable differences of statistical significance among TWC completers and noncompleters.  In addition, we found that the average TWC participant  regardless of program completion  was similar along observable characteristics to the average RSC noncompleter.  For instance, 43 percent of RSC noncompleters lacked recent work history (that is, within the past year; Table III.3), compared with 44 percent of TWC participants overall (Table III.1) and 41 percent of both TWC completers and TWC noncompleters (Table III.3).[9]  This suggests that the TWC program was well targeted  that it served people with a strong likelihood of failure at the RSC intervention.

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