Auspos, P., Miller, C., & Hunter, J. A. (2000). Final report on the implementation and impacts of the Minnesota Family Investment Program in Ramsey County. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation. [MFIP-R versus AFDC, single parents in the early cohort]
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Minnesota Family Investment Program of Ramsey County (MFIP-R), a precursor to the national Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, on participants’ employment, earnings, and benefit receipt.
- The authors used a randomized controlled trial design, assigning eligible families to either MFIP-R or existing services. Employment, earnings, and benefit receipt data were collected quarterly from Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance earnings and public assistance benefit records.
- This review was conducted in collaboration with the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER). Because ESER did not report findings for studies that received a low causal evidence rating, this CLEAR profile does not report the findings either.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because assignment to condition was not fully random, and the authors did not account for potential pre-existing differences in group characteristics in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to MFIP-R; other factors are likely to have contributed.
The Minnesota Family Investment Program of Ramsey County (MFIP-R)
Features of the Intervention
MFIP-R was a variation of MFIP, which was originally implemented as a field trial in seven Minnesota counties to provide welfare recipients with financial incentives and assistance to return to work. The Ramsey County variation of MFIP combined the financial incentives of MFIP with a work-first orientation, requiring people to participate in a sequence of activities to encourage rapid employment. The financial incentives included generous earnings disregard when calculating eligibility for cash assistance, direct payment of child care expenses to the child care provider (rather than as a reimbursement to participants), and combined cash assistance and Food Stamps payments. Participants receiving welfare for a year or more who did not qualify for “good cause” exemptions were required to participate in a job search workshop and seven weeks of supervised job search activities. Job search workshops included guidance on the job search process, career exploration, resumes, interviews, and workplace challenges. During the seven weeks of supervised job search, participants were required to spend 30 hours per week (or 20 if they had a child younger than six years old) searching for jobs. Participants with part-time employment totaling fewer than 20 or 30 hours per week were required to engage in job search activities to bring their total to 20 or 30 hours per week. Failure to complete these activities could result in sanctions. The MFIP-R program operated from July 1996 to June 1998.
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial involving 803 two-parent families and 3,064 single-parent families who applied to or received assistance from Aid to Families with Dependent Children and were scheduled to recertify. The authors randomly assigned families to MFIP-R or existing services (AFDC). AFDC did not offer the financial incentives offered by MFIP-R and required fewer job search activities. The authors compared employment, earnings, and receipt of benefits between the MFIP-R and AFDC groups, accounting for differences in prior employment, earnings, and welfare receipt in their analysis.
- This review was conducted in collaboration with the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER). Because ESER did not report findings for studies that received a low causal evidence rating, this CLEAR profile does not report the findings either
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The random assignment process was compromised in this study because some treatment group members who did not attend their scheduled recertification meeting were mistakenly reassigned to the control group. To remove these sample members from final analyses, the authors dropped people who did not receive payments in the month after random assignment, which could have inadvertently excluded more than just the misassigned study participants. This issue made it important that the authors account for pre-existing differences between the treatment and control groups in their analyses. However, the authors did not account for potential baseline differences in groups on age, race and ethnicity, gender, employment, and earnings more than one year before random assignment, although they did account for employment, earnings, and welfare receipt during the year directly before random assignment. This means that the estimated impacts could reflect differences in the characteristics of the two groups in addition to any effects of MFIP-R.
The higher amount of welfare received by the treatment group is notable because the intent behind the program was to reduce dependence on public assistance. However, MFIP-R provided participation incentives in the form of public assistance, which could account for the higher amounts in the treatment group during the first year.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because assignment to condition was not fully random, and the authors did not account for potential pre-existing differences in group characteristics in their analysis. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to MFIP-R; other factors are likely to have contributed.