The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. Were Enrollees Employed One Year after Program Entry?

02/01/2004

In most of the study sites, less than half of WtW enrollees were employed one year after they entered the program; however, employment rates at that time were much higher than those at the time of program entry in all but the two JHU sites (where program participants tended to be employed when they enrolled).(41) West Virginia was the only non-JHU site to achieve an end-of-year employment rate in excess of 50 percent; however, Yakima fell just short of that threshold (Exhibit IV.4). In the other seven non-JHU sites, the rate was generally about 40 percent, which is very similar to the 42 percent employment rate for former TANF recipients nationwide reported by Loprest (2003).(42) The end-of-year employment rates for WtW enrollees were much lower than the rates of employment sometime during the year (Exhibit IV.1), indicating considerable instability in employment.

Local programs funded by WtW grants were expected to be integrated with the corresponding state TANF programs. It is therefore useful to assess end-of-year employment outcomes for WtW enrollees in terms of the TANF work requirement, as specified in the 1996 PRWORA legislation, which can be paraphrased as follows:

The nonexempt adult head of a single-parent TANF case must spend at least 30 hours per week working on a job for pay or participating in work-related activities. Participation in education and training programs may account for no more than 10 of the required hours.(43)

In Exhibit IV.5, the TANF work requirement is used as a standard against which to assess employment outcomes for WtW enrollees one year after program entry, without regard for their actual TANF participation status at that time. The exhibit displays the percentage of enrollees that would have satisfied the TANF work requirement based on 30 or more hours of paid employment alone (shown by the length of the dark section of each bar), as well as the percentage that would have satisfied the requirement based on 20-29 hours of paid employment plus an assumed 1-10 hours of participation in education, training, or other work-related activities (shown by the full length of each bar, including both its dark and light sections). The following discussion focuses only on the former percentage.

The rates at which WtW enrollees would have satisfied the TANF 30-hour-per-week work requirement if they had been on TANF one year after program entry were slightly lower than their rates of employment, but the patterns of these two measures were similar across the study sites. Exhibit IV.5 shows that about two-thirds of enrollees in the JHU sites were employed at levels consistent with the TANF requirement, whereas only about one-third of enrollees in the other sites were (with the exception of West Virginia, where 43 percent of enrollees were working at least 30 hours per week). Further analysis revealed that the absence of any employment, rather than insufficient hours of work by those who were employed, accounted for large majorities of the WtW enrollees in each of the study sites who were not working at levels consistent with the TANF 30-hour standard.(44)

The end-of-year employment results presented in this section might be regarded as disappointing by many readers. However, as programs funded by the WtW grants were required (by Public Law 105-33) to serve hard-to-employ adults who were either on assistance or were at risk of long-term welfare dependency, the results could be interpreted alternatively as representing a notable degree of success in a challenging program environment.

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