The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. How Much Recent Work Experience Did Enrollees Have?

02/01/2004

WtW enrollees had relatively weak employment and earning histories. Very few were steadily employed during the year prior to program entry, and their total earnings during that year were very low. This section describes the employment and earnings patterns of WtW enrollees before they entered the program.

Befitting a program that in most sites was designed to move people who were not working into jobs, relatively few enrollees were employed when they entered the program. In all of the study sites except Baltimore and St. Lucie counties, fewer than one in three WtW enrollees were employed at the time of program entry (Exhibit II.5).(18) Even in these two sites  whose aim was to provide career advancement services to employed persons  not all WtW enrollees were employed. At the time of program entry, the rates were 83 percent in Baltimore County and 72 percent in St. Lucie County. The JHU-CTS model generally works with those already employed, usually receiving names of TANF recipients who had started working. In some cases, however, individuals were not yet working or they had not remained employed, meaning program staff began serving some people before employment, and helping some of them find jobs.

Given their history of welfare receipt, it is not surprising that WtW enrollees had generally poor employment histories. In all sites but West Virginia, at least nine in ten enrollees had some prior work experience (Exhibit II.6); but in most, fewer than one in four had been employed in all four quarters prior to the quarter of program entry.(19)In West Virginia, just 6 percent of WtW enrollees had been employed in all 4 quarters prior to program entry, and only 27 percent had been employed in any of those quarters.

In most sites, employment rates of WtW enrollees decreased over the year prior to program entry (Exhibit II.7). This decrease is to be expected since the program was designed to move people who were not working into jobs, and hence some enrollees were bound to have enrolled in the program shortly after losing their jobs. For example, in Ft. Worth and Phoenix, quarterly employment rates were in the 40 to 60 percent range and these rates decreased over time (5 to 8 percentage points) in the year prior to program entry. In Philadelphia, Yakima, and Chicago, employment rates were lower  in the 30 to 40 percent range  but these rates also decreased over time during the year prior to program entry. The West Virginia site had a very low employment rate to begin with (21 percent in the fourth quarter prior to program entry), which diminished to 12 percent in the quarter prior to program entry.

But in three sites, employment rates actually increased over the year prior to program entry. In the two JHU sites (Baltimore and St. Lucie counties), employment rates increased by more than 10 percentage points over the year prior to program entry. This is to be expected since these two sites offered programs designed to serve people already working, and therefore there were bound to be some enrollees who found a job shortly before enrolling in the program. In Milwaukee, employment rates also increased substantially  from 37 to 45 percent. The reason behind this increase is likely different, however, as most participants were men on probation or parole with little access to TANF. Hence, many of them could not stay without a job for very long.

Consistent with their poor employment histories, WtW enrollees had very low earnings in the year prior to program entry  in all sites, the median annual earnings in the year prior to program entry were less than $4,000, and less than $2,000 in all sites but one (Exhibit II.8). In Chicago, Philadelphia, West Virginia, and Yakima, the median annual earnings were below $500. In fact, the median annual earnings in West Virginia were zero, which reflects the fact that more than half of the site's enrollees were not employed at any point during the year prior to program entry.

Exhibit II.1
Demographic Characteristics of Welfare-to-work Enrollees at Program Entry
(Percentages)
  Baltimore Co. Boston Chicago Ft. Worth Milwaukee Nashville Philadelphia Phoenix St. Lucie Co., FL West Virginia Yakima, WA RSC
Age
   Less than 20 years old 0 2 1 5 1 0 0 1 3 0 0 0
   20 to 29 years old 31 54 50 54 53 47 45 59 47 39 45 44
   30 to 39 years old 49 35 35 31 36 40 39 31 35 44 34 40
   40 or more years old 20 9 14 10 10 12 16 10 15 17 21 16
Gender
   Female 92 93 97 94 5 99 99 96 92 79 80 95
   Male 8 7 3 6 95 1 1 4 8 21 20 5
Race
   Hispanic 1 32 6 26 9 1 7 NA 8 1 NA 15
   White non-Hispanic 21 7 2 22 5 11 2 NA 33 83 NA 6
   Black non-Hispanic 77 60 92 50 86 87 89 NA 59 14 NA 78
   Other non-Hispanic 1 2 1 2 0 1 2 NA 0 2 NA 2
Marital Status
   Married 6 5 3 9 5 3 3 7 13 27 15 6
   Cohabiting 2 3 5 2 19 2 6 4 2 8 15 7
   Separated/divorced/widowed 27 16 18 33 11 28 13 26 33 33 32 17
   Never married 66 76 74 56 65 67 79 63 52 31 38 70
Sample Size 121 797 1,915 996 276 643 1,279 286 168 290 369 1,109
Source: 1999-2002 baseline 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.
Note 2: The categories of each of the four characteristics displayed in this exhibit, including marital status, are mutually exclusive and exhaustive
NA = not available.
Exhibit II.2
Labor Market Assets and Liabilities of Welfare-to-work Enrollees at Program Entry
(Percentages)
  Baltimore Co. Boston Chicago Ft. Worth Milwaukee Nashville Philadelphia Phoenix St. Lucie Co., FL West Virginia Yakima, WA
Education
   Still in high school 5 4 5 6 6 20 7 4 8 6 NA
   High school dropout 15 34 37 40 43 23 44 55 17 28 NA
   GED 8 9 6 11 17 9 4 9 7 16 NA
   High school diploma 31 22 25 19 13 22 15 12 20 23 NA
   Postsecondary degree 5 3 3 2 1 3 2 1 1 5 NA
   Voc. or tech. degree or certif. 36 27 24 22 19 22 28 19 47 22 NA
Any Work-Limiting Health Problem 24 16 20 24 22 26 20 19 10 26 31
Type of Work-Lim. Health Problem
   Medical condition 7 6 10 11 6 10 10 8 6 13 13
   Physical disability 3 3 4 6 5 5 2 3 3 10 9
   Emotional or mental condition 4 4 2 6 4 7 4 4 2 10 7
   Drug or alcohol use 1 1 2 1 3 2 2 1 0 1 9
   Other 10 3 7 7 6 8 7 5 2 7 4
Health Problem of Oth. HH Member
   Limits Own Work or Training 10 9 11 11 4 13 13 14 5 9 11
Age of Youngest Child in Household
   No child 10 4 6 3 62 3 4 5 3 6 0
   Less than 3 years old 11 28 35 40 13 24 23 42 37 16 22
   3 or more years old 79 68 60 57 26 73 73 53 61 78 78
Sample Size 121 797 1,915 996 276 643 1,279 286 168 290 369
Source: 1999-2002 baseline survey of Welfare-to-Work enrollees.
Note: 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.
NA = not available.

Exhibit II.3
History of TANF Receipt by WtW Enrollees at Program Entry

History of TANF Receipt by WtW Enrollees at Program Entry

Exhibit II.4
Cumulative Years of TANF Receipt by WtW Enrollees at Program Entry

(if ever on TANF)

Cumulative Years of TANF Receipt by WtW Enrollees at Program Entry(if ever on TANF)

Exhibit II.5
Rate of Employment OF WtW Enrollees at Program Entry

Rate of Employment OF WtW Enrollees at Program Entry

Exhibit II.6
Rates of Employment of WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Rates of Employment of WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Exhibit II.7
Trends in Employment Rates for WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Trends in Employment Rates for WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Exhibit II.8
Median Annual Earnings of WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Median Annual Earnings of WtW Enrollees in the Four Quarters Prior to the Quarter of Program Entry

Endnotes

13.  The Yakima site administered a different background information form than the other sites. Data on UI-covered earnings could not be obtained from the states of Massachusetts and Tennessee for enrollees in the Boston and Nashville study sites.

14.  These findings should be taken with caution given that a sizable portion of enrollees did not answer the question related to their work-limiting health problems. Nine of the 11 study sites had response rates for this item in the range of 65 percent to 85 percent.

15.  This pattern may also reflect respondents' unwillingness to acknowledge certain types of health problems.

16.  The TANF participation rates presented in this section are based on data from the evaluation's baseline survey that was conducted when WtW enrollees entered the program. Consequently, these rates reflect the participants' self-reports of their TANF status at enrollment. These rates are generally lower than the TANF monthly participation rates based on state administrative data (to be presented in a subsequent report). These differences, which range from -30 percentage points to 15 percentage points, are probably due to one or more of the following reasons. First, the rates in the baseline survey reflect participation at a specific moment in time whereas the rates based on state administrative data reflect participation at any time in the month of enrollment. Second, some enrollees who were receiving TANF assistance under a different program name may not have known that the assistance they were receiving was TANF. Third, the question in the baseline survey used to compute participation rates asked whether the enrollee had received TANF or AFDC in his/her own name, which may have led some enrollees who received TANF but not under their name to report that they did not receive TANF. Finally, the baseline surveys were administered late in some sites and, given that caseloads were decreasing in many of these sites during the enrollment period, the TANF participation rates based on the baseline survey may be understating the actual rates of participation at baseline.

17.  These numbers refer to the total time of TANF receipt prior to program entry, not the duration of the most recent TANF spell. The numbers were computed only for enrollees who reported in the baseline survey that they had ever received benefits from TANF or its precursor program, AFDC.

18.  Employment figures reported in this exhibit are based on data from the evaluation's baseline survey that was conducted when WtW enrollees entered the program. These figures tend to be substantially lower than the employer-reported UI figures. Part of this discrepancy may be explained by the fact that the baseline survey provides a single-point-in-time measure whereas the UI data provide a measure of being employed at any time during the quarter of program entry (so the latter will tend to overstate employment at any specific point in time).

19.  Figures in this and the subsequent two exhibits are based on employer-reported UI data obtained from all our study sites except for Boston and Nashville.

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