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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Hendra, Richard; Dillman, Keri-Nicole; Hamilton, Gayle; Lundquist, Erika; Martinson, Karin; Wavelet, Melissa; Hill, Aaron; Williams, Sonya
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    This report summarizes the final impact results for the national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project. This project tested, using a random assignment design, the effectiveness of numerous programs intended to promote steady work and career advancement. All the programs targeted current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers. Given that earlier retention and advancement initiatives studied for these groups were largely not effective, ERA sought to examine a variety of programs that states and localities had developed for different populations, to determine whether effective strategies could be identified. In short, nine of the twelve programs examined in this report do not appear to be effective, but three programs increased employment levels, employment stability, and/or earnings, relative to control group levels, after three to four years of follow-up.

    Key Findings:

     - Out of the twelve programs included in the report, three ERA programs produced positive economic impacts; nine did not. All three...

    This report summarizes the final impact results for the national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project. This project tested, using a random assignment design, the effectiveness of numerous programs intended to promote steady work and career advancement. All the programs targeted current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers. Given that earlier retention and advancement initiatives studied for these groups were largely not effective, ERA sought to examine a variety of programs that states and localities had developed for different populations, to determine whether effective strategies could be identified. In short, nine of the twelve programs examined in this report do not appear to be effective, but three programs increased employment levels, employment stability, and/or earnings, relative to control group levels, after three to four years of follow-up.

    Key Findings:

     - Out of the twelve programs included in the report, three ERA programs produced positive economic impacts; nine did not. All three programs increased employment retention and advancement. Increases in employment retention and earnings were largest and most consistent over time in the Texas ERA program in Corpus Christi (one of three sites that operated this program); the Chicago ERA program; and the Riverside County, California, Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) ERA program. These programs increased annual earnings by between 7 percent and 15 percent relative to control group levels. Each of them served a different target group, which suggests that employment retention and advancement programs can work for a range of populations. However, three-fourths of the ERA programs included in this report did not produce gains in targeted outcomes beyond what control group members were able to attain on their own with the existing services and supports available in the ERA sites.

     - Increases in participation beyond control group levels were not consistent or large, which may have made it difficult for the programs to achieve impacts on employment retention and advancement. Engaging individuals in employment and retention services at levels above what they would have done in the absence of the programs was a consistent challenge. In addition, staff had to spend a lot of time and resources on placing unemployed individuals back into jobs, which made it difficult for them to focus on helping those who were already working to keep their jobs or move up.

    Before the ERA project began, there was not much evidence about the types of programs that could improve employment retention and advancement outcomes for current or former welfare recipients. The ERA evaluation provides valuable insights about the nature of retention and advancement problems and it underscores a number of key implementation challenges that a program would have to address. In addition, it reveals shortcomings in a range of common approaches now in use, while identifying three distinct approaches that seem promising and worthy of further exploration. (author abstract)

     

  • Individual Author: Brock, Thomas; Nelson, Laura C. ; Reiter, Megan
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2002

    A primary objective of the 1996 welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity; Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), is to end poor families’ dependence on public benefits by helping them prepare for employment. Part of MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change, this report examines how four urban counties—Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, and Philadelphia—have approached the challenge of moving large numbers of welfare recipients into work. Focusing on the period from 1997 through early 2001, the report draws on interviews and observations conducted at the county welfare offices, a survey of welfare office staff, and participation and expenditure data supplied by the counties and the States in which they are located. 
    
    Though large welfare bureaucracies have historically been able to ride out pressures to change, after PRWORA’s passage the sites in the Urban Change study made important policy and operational changes directed at moving welfare recipients into the workforce. Designing and implementing these changes took...

    A primary objective of the 1996 welfare reform law, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity; Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), is to end poor families’ dependence on public benefits by helping them prepare for employment. Part of MDRC’s Project on Devolution and Urban Change, this report examines how four urban counties—Cuyahoga (Cleveland), Los Angeles, Miami-Dade, and Philadelphia—have approached the challenge of moving large numbers of welfare recipients into work. Focusing on the period from 1997 through early 2001, the report draws on interviews and observations conducted at the county welfare offices, a survey of welfare office staff, and participation and expenditure data supplied by the counties and the States in which they are located. 
    
    Though large welfare bureaucracies have historically been able to ride out pressures to change, after PRWORA’s passage the sites in the Urban Change study made important policy and operational changes directed at moving welfare recipients into the workforce. Designing and implementing these changes took several years and considerable financial and human resources. Three of the four counties shifted from an emphasis on education and training to a “work-first” approach (Los Angeles had already moved in that direction by the time PRWORA was passed). All four counties also made substantial strides toward increasing the percentage of welfare recipients who were employed or participating in welfare-to-work activities. Finally, despite falling caseloads, spending on welfare-to-work programs increased dramatically in all the counties. The changes did not always proceed smoothly. For instance, state and local policymakers sometimes clashed over program objectives, and case managers—who play a critical role in linking recipients and policies—sometimes struggled to fulfill their increasingly complicated responsibilities. Supplementary funds for serving hard-to-employ recipients were available through the U.S. Department of Labor’s Welfare-To-Work grant program, but only Philadelphia made extensive use of them. All the counties continue to search for effective strategies for working with the hard-to-employ. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Polit, Denise F.; London, Andrew S.; Martinez, John M.
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2000

    Despite the strength of the American economy in the past few years, food insecurity and hunger continue to affect millions of American families. Drawing on 1998-1999 survey and ethnographic data from the Urban Change study (a multicomponent study of the implementation and effects of welfare reform in four large cities), this paper describes the food security of mother-headed families who were living in highly disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and who had received or were currently receiving cash welfare benefits. The families of four groups of women were compared: those who, at the time of the interview, worked and were no longer receiving welfare; those who combined welfare and work; nonworking welfare recipients; and those who neither worked nor were then receiving welfare. The survey results indicated that food insecurity in the prior year was high in all groups. Overall, about half the families were food insecure, and hunger was found in slightly more than 15 percent of the families. Moreover, in nearly one-third of the families there were food hardships that affected the...

    Despite the strength of the American economy in the past few years, food insecurity and hunger continue to affect millions of American families. Drawing on 1998-1999 survey and ethnographic data from the Urban Change study (a multicomponent study of the implementation and effects of welfare reform in four large cities), this paper describes the food security of mother-headed families who were living in highly disadvantaged urban neighborhoods and who had received or were currently receiving cash welfare benefits. The families of four groups of women were compared: those who, at the time of the interview, worked and were no longer receiving welfare; those who combined welfare and work; nonworking welfare recipients; and those who neither worked nor were then receiving welfare. The survey results indicated that food insecurity in the prior year was high in all groups. Overall, about half the families were food insecure, and hunger was found in slightly more than 15 percent of the families. Moreover, in nearly one-third of the families there were food hardships that affected the children’s diets. Food insecurity was most prevalent among families where the mother had neither employment income nor welfare benefits. Food insecurity was lowest among the families where the mothers were working and no longer getting welfare, but even in this group 44.5 percent were food insecure, and nearly 15 percent had experienced hunger. Data from in-depth ethnographic interviews indicate that, in this population, women who are food secure nevertheless expend considerable energy piecing together strategies to ensure that there is an adequate amount of food available for themselves and their children. (Author abstract)

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