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Teaching self-sufficiency: An impact and benefit-cost analysis of a home visitation and life skills education program. Findings from the rural welfare-to-work strategies demonstration evaluation. (Meckstroth et al 2008)

Citation

Meckstroth, A., Burwick, A., & Moore, Q. (2008). Teaching self-sufficiency: An impact and benefit-cost analysis of a home visitation and life skills education program. Findings from the rural welfare-to-work strategies demonstration evaluation. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Building Nebraska Families (BNF) rural welfare-to-work program on employment, earnings, and public benefit receipt.
  • The authors randomly assigned Nebraska Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients identified as hard-to-employ to either a treatment group, which received in-home life skills and family management training, or a control group, which did not. The authors evaluated the treatment’s impact using Nebraska state administrative data and follow-up surveys.
  • The study found that BNF increased the average likelihood of ever being employed in the first year after enrollment by 10.8 percentage points and that of ever being employed in the first 30 months after enrollment by 6.3 percentage points.
  • 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 the BNF rural welfare-to-work program and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Building Nebraska Families (BNF)

Features of the Intervention

The BNF program offered weekly or biweekly home visits during which master’s-level educators delivered curricula designed to improve life skills and family management practices. Educators also provided informal counseling and support in accessing needed services and resources. Once enrolled in the program, members of the treatment group were required to participate and could be sanctioned if they did not.

The BNF program staff had at least one service contact with 95 percent of the individuals in the treatment group. The program had an average of 25 hours of contact time with those individuals during the time the program was studied. On average, clients participated in BNF for 8.3 months.

Features of the Study

The authors randomly assigned 602 TANF recipients identified as hard-to-employ in 65 rural Nebraska counties to the treatment or the control group. Members of the treatment group participated in the BNF program, and members of the control group did not but could continue to receive benefits and other services as usual.

The authors estimated the effect of the program by comparing the average outcomes from participant surveys and Nebraska administrative data among a group of individuals randomly selected to participate in the program against those among a group randomly selected as a control, after adjusting for chance differences between the groups before the intervention.

Findings

  • The study found that BNF increased the average likelihood of ever being employed in the first 30 months after enrollment by 6.3 percentage points.
  • The average likelihood of ever being employed in the first year after enrollment was 10.8 percentage points higher in the BNF group than in the control group.
  • BNF also reduced the amount of Unemployment Insurance received in the month before the 18-month follow-up survey by an average of $23.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Data sources used to estimate some long-term outcomes suffered from high attrition, and the authors did not establish that the treatment and control groups were similar before the intervention. As a result, these outcomes received a low causal evidence rating. Because this review was conducted in collaboration with ESER and ESER did not report findings that received a low causal evidence rating, the CLEAR profile does not report these findings.

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 the BNF rural welfare-to-work program, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2016

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