Welfare ReformAssessing the Effectiveness of Various Welfare-to-Work Approaches Gao ID: HEHS-99-179 September 9, 1999
Five evaluations of state welfare-to-work programs begun in the 1980s indicate that programs that offered a combination of rapid employment/job search activities and education/training activities more often increased employment and earnings and reduced welfare payments than did programs that focused solely on employment or on education. Two-year findings from an evaluation begun in 1992 show that each approach?employment and education?has increased participants' employment and earnings but that neither is clearly better than the other. However, the rapid-employment approach costs about half as much per person as the education-based approach. Because none of these evaluations covered welfare reform under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, more needs to be known about how well different approaches perform. Little is known about the relationship between the educational attainment of parents receiving welfare and that of their children. Limited research indicates that a mother's higher educational attainment has a positive effect on her children's development in both welfare and nonwelfare populations.
GAO noted that: (1) research conducted to date on the effectiveness of different welfare-to-work approaches suggests that programs with a combined approach--including both job search assistance and some education and training--tend to be more effective than either approach alone in increasing employment and earnings while reducing welfare payments; (2) five evaluations begun in the 1980s with 5-year results indicated that programs focusing on rapid employment and job search activities combined with education and training activities more often increased employment and earnings and reduced welfare payments, compared with programs that focused solely on job search activities or those that placed the greatest emphasis on education; (3) in addition, early results from a more recent ongoing evaluation--the only evaluation designed explicitly to compare the effectiveness of a rapid-employment approach with an education-based welfare-to-work approach--found that while each approach has increased participants' employment and earnings, neither approach has proven clearly better than the other; (4) the rapid employment approach did cost about half as much per person as the education-based approach; (5) while these studies provide useful information, more needs to be known about how well different approaches are performing in the environment created by the enactment of welfare reform in 1996, which none of these evaluations cover; (6) while research indicates that parents' educational attainment has a positive effect on children's educational attainment, little information is available on this relationship specifically within the welfare population; (7) recent studies have identified factors affecting cognitive development of children in welfare families; (8) this research, while limited in scope, indicates that a mother's higher level of educational attainment is one factor that may positively affect children's development; and (9) in addition, a body of research that focuses on the effects of poverty on children's educational attainment suggests a significant positive relationship between the educational attainment of parents and their children among both the welfare and the nonwelfare populations.