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A comparison of two Welfare-to-Work strategies among African American women in Atlanta, Georgia. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). (Wilson-Brewster 2006)

Citation

Wilson-Brewster, V.L. (2006). A comparison of two Welfare-to-Work strategies among African American women in Atlanta, Georgia. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Capella University, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the effectiveness of two welfare-to-work programs—the Labor Force Attachment (LFA) program and the Human Capital Development (HCD) program—on the employment and earnings of African American women 25, 35, and 45 years old in Atlanta.
  • The author analyzed a subsample of participants in the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS) study. The study was a randomized controlled trial that assigned individuals within a geographic location to one of three groups: LFA, HCD, or a control group.
  • The study found that women in the 35-year-old group who participated in LFA or HCD had higher earnings and needed less time to find a job than those in the other age cohorts.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study was a randomized controlled trial with unknown attrition and the authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups being compared in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to LFA or HCD programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Labor Force Attachment (LFA) and Human Capital Development (HCD)

Features of the Intervention

Both LFA and HCD were approaches implemented as part of NEWWS. The two programs differed in their approach to transitioning participants to work: the LFA program encouraged participants to enter employment as quickly as possible, and the HCD program encouraged participants to receive education and training before entering employment. These interventions were mandated for the study participants assigned to each group, and people in those groups who did not participate were subject to sanctions that reduced their public assistance benefits.

Features of the Study

The study included a subsample of 4,637 African American women from the Atlanta, Georgia, site of the NEWWS study, which was a multisite study commissioned by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: LFA, HCD, or to a control group that had the option to seek educational or employment opportunities without sanctions. Analyses were conducted separately based on three age categories: 25, 35, and 45 years old.

The women in the study were eligible if they (1) were part of the NEWWS study; (2) applied for Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits; (3) resided in Atlanta, Georgia; (4) were African American; and (5) had children. The number of women with one child, two children, and three or more children in the sample was roughly even—36.4 percent had one child, 33.3 percent had two children, and 30.4 percent had three or more children.

The public use data files the author analyzed included earned income, employment retention, time elapsed before finding employment, income for two years before the study, number of quarters employed year before the study, age, number of children, marital status, and educational attainment variables. The author used analysis of covariance to statistically account for differences that existed among the groups before the study and examined earnings, time to employment, and job retention for five years following random assignment.

Findings

  • The study found that 35-year-old women who participated in LFA or HCD had higher earnings after five years than 35-year-old women in the control group.
  • The study also found that 35-year-old women in the LFA group had the shortest time to employment when examining the five years after the program began, but the time for the HCD group was also significantly shorter than that of the same-age control group.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although the study was a randomized controlled trial by design, the level of attrition was unknown and therefore the study is ineligible to receive a high causal evidence rating; thus, it was treated as a nonexperimental design for this review. The author did not demonstrate that the incomes of people in each study group were statistically equivalent more than one year before random assignment, so the study could not receive a moderate causal evidence rating, either. The author noted large differences at baseline for the three study groups based on their age, income, education, and work experience. Therefore any observed relationships between the LFA and HCD programs and employment outcomes might reflect these existing differences, and not the effect of the programs.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the study was a randomized controlled trial with unknown attrition, and the authors did not account for preexisting differences between the groups being compared in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to LFA or HCD programs; other factors are likely to have contributed.

Additional Sources

Hamilton, G., Freedman, S., Gennetian, L., Michalopoulos, C., Walter, J., Adams-Ciardullo, D., … Ricchetti, B. (2001). National evaluation of welfare-to-work strategies: How effective are different welfare-to-work approaches? Five-year adult and child impacts for eleven programs. New York, NY: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.

Reviewed by CLEAR

February 2017

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