The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. Despite Employment Gains, Most Enrollees Were Poor and Dependent on Assistance One Year after Entering WtW

02/01/2004

Instability in employment meant that many enrollees who had found jobs sometime during the year were no longer working at the end of the year. As noted, only about 40 percent of enrollees in the non-JHU sites were employed at that time. The resulting diminished earnings among enrollees as a group forced many to rely on assistance from outside the household and caused end-of-year poverty rates to be higher than they would have been had the employment gains been sustained.

Enrollees typically availed themselves of diverse sources of financial and nonfinancial support one year after entering the WtW program. In most of the study sites, TANF participation rates fell dramatically in the year following enrollment in WtW. However, large majorities of enrollees, with the notable exception of the noncustodial parents/ex-offenders in the Milwaukee program, continued to receive assistance from other government programs, especially food stamps. During the year, most also received assistance from extended family members or friends, whereas far fewer received help from community organizations.

Few WtW enrollees were self-sufficient one year after program entry. Only in the Baltimore and St. Lucie county sites for the JHU program were more than half of enrollees self-sufficient (employed and not on TANF) one year after they entered WtW. In the nine other study sites, just 20 to 40 percent of enrollees were self-sufficient. Typically, the percentage of enrollees who were dependent (on TANF and not working) at the end of the year was as large or larger than the percentage who were self-sufficient.

Poverty was pervasive among WtW enrollees one year after they entered the program, but its incidence was lower among those who were employed. The end-of-year poverty rate for WtW enrollees exceeded 60 percent in every study site except Baltimore County, where it was 49 percent. However, obtaining and maintaining employment was often an important step out of poverty. Except in St. Lucie County and West Virginia, the rate of poverty among WtW enrollees who were employed at the end of the year following program entry was 20 to 30 percentage points lower than that for enrollees who were not employed. Even so, the generally low wages earned by enrollees and their lack of consistent full-time employment over an entire month meant that even for this group the incidence of poverty was high in an absolute sense  50 percent or more in every study site except Baltimore County.

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