Understanding the Costs of the DOL Welfare-to-Work Grants Program. Variation in Costs per Participant

08/01/2002

As we just saw, the WtW programs in the cost analysis offered different mixes of services. Since specific services require different combinations of resources (for example, more or less staff time, space, materials, or equipment), differences in the programs' service mix could contribute to differences in their costs. Even when examining WtW programs that offered a similar mix of services to their clients, expenditure patterns can reveal important differences in where programs truly concentrated their efforts or in how services were delivered.

Unit measures of cost allow us to explore these differences most clearly, because they factor out the influences of program scale. In particular, estimates of cost per participant describe the amount of resources that programs spent, on average, to serve a single participant. These estimates make it possible to compare the magnitude of WtW expenditures on individual participants, overall or for particular services, across programs.

The average WtW program spent $3,607 to serve each participant. As with other estimates, however, there was substantial variation in costs per participant across the programs. The least costly program spent $1,887 per participant (Fort Worth-Women's Center) while the most costly (Philadelphia-TWC) spent $6,641.

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