A high incidence of poverty did not necessarily mean that WtW enrollees experienced especially high levels of material distress. This evaluation measured five types of material distress that enrollees and their families may have experienced during the year after program entry: inability to fully pay the rent or mortgage, eviction, inability to fully pay a utility bill, termination of a utility, and disconnection of the telephone. Among these, inability to fully pay the rent or mortgage was most common in Milwaukee and St. Lucie County, whereas inability to pay a utility bill in its entirety was most common in the other sites (Appendix Exhibit B.22). An index created for this evaluation summarizes the five types of material distress on a 0-to-1 scale, with higher values indicating greater distress.(64), (65) Across the study sites, the mean value of the index ranged from 0.23 to 0.32, corresponding to the experience of between one and one-and-a-half types of distress (Exhibit V.7).
A relatively high incidence of poverty in a study site was not always accompanied by a relatively high mean value of the index of material distress. For example, WtW enrollees in Chicago, Philadelphia, and West Virginia had relatively low mean index values despite having the highest poverty rates among the study sites. In these same three sites, enrollees had very high rates of receipt of assistance from government programs (Exhibit V.2), which may have helped them to avoid the most extreme consequences of poverty.