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Report Shows Effects of Education on Employment of Welfare Recipients

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HHS News Release

The Administration for Children and Families in the Department of Health and Human Services today announced the results of an interim report on the first two years of a demonstration to improve the job prospects of welfare recipients who are already working 20 hours per week by offering them specially-designed education courses in a community college setting. Thus far, the study shows that while those involved in the program met short-term educational goals, their earnings did not increase during the first year and a half of program participation, and they stayed on welfare longer than recipients in the control group. The study will have longer term follow-up to determine whether the investment in education results in increased employment and earnings.

The demonstration project, called New Visions, is a joint effort between Riverside Community College (RCC) in Riverside, California and the California Department of Public Social Services. It uses an experimental design that randomly assigns volunteers either to a treatment group that participates in the special program or to a control group that does not. Participants get 24 weeks of preparatory courses followed by regular college courses providing specific job training. They also receive case management, counseling, small classes, a customized curriculum and flexible class scheduling. The control group is encouraged to participate in job advancement activities which may include other educational and training opportunities available in Riverside County.

"The interim findings of this study show that it is possible to get working TANF recipients involved in community college, with the eventual goal of full-time work," said Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., assistant secretary for children and families. "Even at this early point, the report contains many lessons that will be useful in developing programs that combine work with training in line with President Bush's proposals. In the final analysis though, it is full-time work that eventually lifts families out of poverty, and we do not yet know whether the increased education will lead to greater earnings."

The interim report includes a range of findings, such as:

With strong outreach and coordination between education and social service agencies and provision of supportive services, it is possible to develop academic programs for working TANF recipients;
Such programs can have a moderately strong effect on increasing the proportion of such recipients who go on to college classes;
Participants in the New Visions program showed large improvements in math and language skills, though the levels reached were still well below college level;
Fully one-half of those assigned to the control group ended up taking part in some form of education and training;
Over the 18-month period following the program, there was no significant difference between the participant and control groups in the quarters worked or total earnings received;
Participants received more welfare benefits and payments than the control group;
In spite of vigorous efforts to recruit recipients to the program, it was difficult to meet the demonstration's recruiting goals.
Among those who did volunteer, a substantial fraction did not show up for classes or attended some classes without completing the program.
Abt Associates is conducting the evaluation. The final report, to be published in 2004, will focus on the long term effects of this program on increasing the earnings of recipients already in the work force. The interim report can be found at: http://www.abtassociates.com/reports/nv_interim.pdf

Contact: Chris Downing
ACF Press Office (202) 401-9215
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