Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study's objective was to examine the impact of the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program on employment, earnings, and public benefits receipt. This profile focuses on the outcomes for the two-parent household sample. The authors investigated similar research questions for another contrast, the profile of which can be found here.
- The study was a randomized controlled trial in six California counties that assigned participants to receive GAIN services or to a control group. Using data from the California State Unemployment Insurance Earnings and Benefits Records, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences between the treatment and control groups up to one year after random assignment.
- The study found that program participants had significantly higher earnings and employment rates, and lower rates of public benefits receipt than control participants in some of the six counties examined.
- This study receives a high evidence rating. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program, and not to other factors.
Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN)
Features of the Intervention
California began the Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program in 1985 as a replacement for the state’s earlier Work Incentive Program to increase employment among residents receiving state welfare benefits. Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) applicants that were deemed eligible for the GAIN program could receive numerous services based on their educational attainment and assessed skills at the time of program start. The program model included both basic education and employment assistance components. The services provided were tailored to a participant's welfare history, employment history, and level of education. The supportive services that included assistance with childcare and transportation, were immediately available to ensure that participants could take part in program activities. As a first step, program participants took a basic skills test and were assigned to a case manager. Participants were entered basic education courses for three weeks before receiving job search assistance if they lacked basic education, received low scores on the math or reading sections of the basic skills test, or were not proficient in English. If any GAIN clients had initiated education or training before entering the program, they could pursue that activity if their case manager deemed it beneficial and remain eligible for GAIN services for up to two years. All other participants received job search assistance first, which included job clubs, supervised job searches, and connections to local employers with the assistance of a job developer. Program staff also helped clients assess career goals and develop an employment plan, if the participant did not find employment after completing the first series of activities. The program enrolled all individuals at the income maintenance offices who were either single parents whose youngest child was 6 or older or the head of a two-parent household. Participation in the GAIN program was mandatory for those who were eligible and receiving benefits. Participants continued in the GAIN program until they found employment, left GAIN, or were exempted from the program for other reasons.
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial that was conducted in six counties in California between 1988 and 1990. The study sample included head-of-household applicants for AFDC who were required to register for potential participation in GAIN. Approximately 10,000 potential participants were randomly assigned to the treatment or control group after attending a program orientation and appraisal at a GAIN office. The random assignment period varied across sites and ended when target sample sizes were achieved at each site. On average, about 69 percent of heads of two-parent households were assigned to the treatment group across sites. Participants in the control group were not eligible for GAIN services but could seek other employment and training services in the community. Using data collected at program orientation and the California State Unemployment Insurance Earnings and Benefits Records, the authors conducted statistical models to examine differences in outcomes between treatment and control groups one year after random assignment.
There were six sites in the study.
- Alameda County, CA
- Butte County, CA
- Los Angeles County, CA
- Riverside County, CA
- San Diego County, CA
- Tulare County, CA
Earnings and wages
- The study found that program participants in Los Angeles and Riverside counties had significantly higher earnings during the one-year follow-up period compared to control participants. There were no significant differences in earnings in the other counties.
- The study found that GAIN program participants were significantly more likely to be employed during the first year of follow-up compared to control participants in Alameda, Butte, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties. There were no significant differences in employment in Tulare County.
Public benefits receipt
- The study found that program participants received significantly fewer AFDC payments and lower monetary payments compared to control participants in Riverside and San Diego Counties during the one-year follow-up period. In Los Angeles County, there were no significant differences in the number of payments received but program participants received a significantly lower monetary payment than control participants. There were no significant differences in the other counties.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Participants may have begun education or job search activities prior to beginning the program and are assessed during orientation to determine if these activities meet the program compliance requirements. Since participants were randomized to treatment or control groups at the program orientation, they may have anticipated the intervention. Additionally, AFDC payment information is maintained separately by each county; this may fail to capture AFDC payments accurately if participants move between counties. Lastly, the participating counties had different intake/enrollment criteria.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program, and not to other factors.