The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. What Were the Labor Market Assets and Liabilities of Enrollees?

02/01/2004

As indicated in the implementation report (Nightingale et al. 2002), many WtW enrollees in the study sites had characteristics often associated with disadvantages in the labor market: low levels of education, work-limiting health problems, and presence of a young child at home.

In six of the sites, more than a third of WtW enrollees were high school dropouts (Exhibit II.2). For example, about four in ten of the enrollees in the Milwaukee, Ft. Worth, and Philadelphia sites were high school dropouts. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Phoenix  a site that provided a rapid attachment WtW program  had, at 55 percent, the highest rate of WtW enrollees that had dropped out of high school by the time they enrolled in the WtW program. Not surprisingly, the two sites that emphasized career advancement  Baltimore and St. Lucie counties, which use the JHU model  had the lowest rates of high school dropouts among WtW enrollees, at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Work-limiting health problems were another factor that may have affected the employment prospects of WtW enrollees as they entered the program. In most sites, more than one in five enrollees had a work-limiting medical condition, physical disability, emotional or mental condition, drug or alcohol use, or other problem. There was a fair amount of variation in this proportion across the sites, ranging from 10 percent in St. Lucie County to 31 percent in Yakima.(14) There was also substantial variation across the sites in the types of work-limiting health problems reported by WtW enrollees  but in general, a medical condition was the most common, and drug or alcohol use the least common.(15)

The health problems or disabilities of a household member were a barrier to employment for about 1 in 10 WtW enrollees. Enrollees' responses to the BIF survey indicate that these conditions, while less prevalent than their own health problems, made it difficult for the enrollees to work, attend training, or go to school.

The presence of young children in the household also may have been a barrier to employment, especially where affordable child care options were scarce. There was great variation across sites in the percentage of enrollees who had a child aged 3 years or younger in the household, ranging from 11 percent in Baltimore County to 42 percent in Phoenix.

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