The Welfare-to-Work Grants Program: Enrollee Outcomes One Year After Program Entry. Why Were Some Enrollees Not Employed One Year after Program Entry?

02/01/2004

Among the WtW enrollees who were not employed one year after program entry, the most commonly cited reason for lack of employment was difficulty finding a job (Appendix Exhibit B.9). This was true for nearly half of the Milwaukee enrollees who were not employed and between one-tenth and one-third of their counterparts in the other study sites. A number of factors may have been underlying this reported difficulty, such as a weak local labor market, a bad match of the enrollee's skills with the requirements of the available jobs, and personal characteristics that present a challenge to employment. Given the additional liabilities that ex-offenders bring to the labor market, it is not surprising that WtW enrollees in Milwaukee were most likely to attribute their lack of employment to difficulty in finding a job.

The enrollee's poor health or work-limiting disability was the second most frequently cited reason for lack of employment. Nearly one in four enrollees in West Virginia gave this explanation for their lack of a job one year after enrollment, as did about one in five enrollees in Baltimore County, Ft. Worth, Nashville, and Phoenix (Appendix Exhibit B.9). These high rates may have been due to higher incidences of poor health or disabilities in these sites and/or to a mix of available jobs that required higher levels of physical functioning.(45)For example, relatively large proportions of enrollees age 40 or older in Baltimore County (20 percent) and West Virginia (17 percent) may have made those groups more susceptible to health problems and disabilities.

Some enrollees who were not employed one year after entering WtW attributed their lack of a job to factors other than those just noted. These percentages were generally low, with some notable exceptions:

  • Nashville Works/Pathways. Sixteen percent of jobless enrollees in this program cited participation in education or training programs as their principal reason for not being employed. This is consistent with two characteristics of the Nashville program. First, an unusually large proportion of enrollees in that program (one in five) were in high school at the time of enrollment (Exhibit II.2). Second, the 44 percent rate of participation by Nashville enrollees in education and training programs following enrollment is the second highest of the sites studied (Exhibit III.4).

  • West Virginia-HRDF. Fifteen percent of enrollees in this program who were not employed a year after enrollment cited transportation problems as the principal reason. West Virginia's TANF recipients often reside in rural areas, but the state's jobs are concentrated in urban centers, making it difficult for many TANF recipients to get to jobs. The HRDF program included specific features to address this problem, but the survey evidence suggests that gaps in access to transportation remained.

  • Milwaukee-NOW. Ten percent of ex-offenders who enrolled in this program and were jobless a year later cited legal problems as the principal reason for not being employed, indicating that a criminal record can be a substantial barrier to employment.

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