University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Employment and Training Institute

Brief Summary

Wisconsin Welfare Employment Experiments: An Evaluation of the WEJT and CWEP [Workfare] Programs

by John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn, Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, September 1993

NOTE: THE FULL REPORT (SCANNED) IS AVAILABLE ONLINE IN 7 PDF FILES:
Executive Summary | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
or in one document (9mb)

In 1986 the Wisconsin Legislature authorized the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) to implement pilot programs to test the effectiveness of two approaches aimed at reducing AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) dependency and increasing the economic self-sufficiency of Wisconsin families. This legislation marked a significant change in state policy toward AFDC recipients and was precipitated by concern over rising AFDC caseloads and welfare migration into the state. The most controversial aspect of the legislation was the introduction of a mandatory "workfare" program in which AFDC recipients would be required to work in unpaid community work sites in return for their grant. Two types of county-level programs were established to test the efficacy of increased public expenditures for welfare employment programs:

  • A comprehensive program (called Work Experience and Job Training, WEJT) to test the effectiveness of the workfare requirement combined with an extensive array of services including remedial education, job search, subsidized employment, job training, day care and supportive services. Those clients not finding work after completing their training were to be required to participate in a mandatory Community Work Experience Program or lose a portion of their AFDC benefits.

  • A "workfare" program (called the Community Work Experience Program, CWEP) which would require county AFDC recipients to participate in unpaid community service jobs.

This study describes the implementation of the WEJT and CWEP programs in Wisconsin and analyzes program expenditures by county for 1987 through 1990. The evaluation tests whether WEJT and CWEP programs met their identified goals to reduce AFDC dependency and to increase the economic self-sufficiency of families. At the time the new programs were implemented, Job Service was operating limited welfare employment programs (called WIN/WEOP, Work Incentive/Wisconsin Employment Opportunities Program) in about one-third of the largest Wisconsin counties, providing mainly job search activities with little or no funding for education and training. Impacts of WEJT and CWEP programs were measured against these Job Service WIN/WEOP programs for counties with comparable populations. In rural counties, program impacts for the WEJT and CWEP programs were also tested against counties with no welfare employment programs in operation.

The evaluation measured the overall impact of these programs on the state's AFDC caseload and separately assessed the impact of 31 county WEJT and CWEP programs operational in 1987 and 1988, according to the research design approved by the state and presented to the Legislature in December 1989. Measures used included 1) percent of cases off AFDC, 2) percent of cases off AFDC with quarterly (three month) earnings greater than $2,500, and 3) average quarterly earnings. Econometric models were used to analyze the effect of the statewide impact of the waiver experiments and expanded welfare employment programs.

Findings

  • The availability of jobs appeared to be the single most important factor in determining the number of families on AFDC in the state. When Wisconsin unemployment rates dropped from 8.9 percent in February 1986 to 3.4 percent in September 1988, AFDC cases showed a large reduction. Wisconsin AFDC caseloads began declining significantly due to the improving economy well before the welfare waiver experiments and most employment training or workfare programs went into effect.

  • In 1987 the state of Wisconsin reduced AFDC benefits by 6 percent for all families. This action reduced the number of working families eligible for AFDC by about 1,700 families per month.

  • While the new programs established may have helped individual welfare recipients, large expenditures of state and federal funds for Wisconsin welfare employment programs showed no measurable impact on AFDC caseloads statewide and modest impact in only a few of the individual counties evaluated.

  • A number of rural counties in the state started workfare programs in 1987 or 1988. These programs varied in scope and quality, with few of the counties placing all eligible recipients in part-time community service jobs, as the legislation had specified. The impact of these programs was measured after two years, compared to similar populations in counties operating no welfare employment programs during the period. The data showed that most county programs did not show improvements above the results achieved by welfare recipients on their own or with a modest job search program.


Impact of CWEP/Workfare Programs Compared to NO Program or to Job Search
Standard Measured
Showed Positive Impact Compared to NO Program
Showed Positive Impact Compared to Job Search/Job Service Program
AFDC Caseload Reductions after 2 Years
   One-Parent Cases
1 out of 15 counties
1 out of 15 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
3 out of 15 counties
3 out of 15 counties
Percent of Cases Off AFDC with Quarterly Earnings Greater than $2,500
   One-Parent Cases
1 out of 15 counties
0 out of 15 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
3 out of 15 counties
0 out of 15 counties
Cases with Increases in Earnings
   One-Parent Cases
1 out of 15 counties
0 out of 15 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
3 out of 15 counties
0 out of 15 counties
The following counties operating CWEP programs in 1988 were analyzed as of Fourth Quarter 1990: Adams, Burnett, Clark, Columbia, Florence, Iron, Langlade, Marquette, Oconto, Pepin, Pierce, Price, Rusk, Walworth and Washburn.


Impact of Comprehensive Welfare Employment Programs Compared to NO Program or to Traditional Job Search/Job Service Models
Standard Measured
Showed Positive Impact Compared to NO Program
Showed Positive Impact Compared to Job Search/Job Service Program
AFDC Caseload Reductions after 2 Years
   One-Parent Cases
1 out of 9 counties
0 out of 14 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
1 out of 9 counties
2 out of 14 counties
Percent of Cases Off AFDC with Quarterly Earnings Greater than $2,500
   One-Parent Cases
3 out of 9 counties
1 out of 14 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
3 out of 9 counties
1 out of 14 counties
Cases with Increases in Earnings
   One-Parent Cases
4 out of 9 counties
1 out of 14 counties
   Two-Parent Cases
3 out of 9 counties
1 out of 14 counties
Outcomes as of Outcomes as of Fourth Quarter 1990 for nine rural counties (Crawford, Green, Green Lake, Iowa, Jackson, Juneau, Lafayette, Richland and Vernon) operating WEJT programs in 1988 were compared with outcomes for AFDC populations in comparable counties operating no welfare employment programs during the period studied. Outcomes as of Fourth Quarter 1990 for the nine rural counties as well as five urban counties (Douglas, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Kenosha and Winnebago) operating 1988 WEJT programs were also compared to populations in comparable counties operating traditional job search/Job Service programs.


Evaluation Results for AFDC Cases Randomly Assigned to Welfare Employment Programs
Standard Measured Results for AFDC Cases in the New Program Results for AFDC Cases in Job Search/Job Service Program
(N=538 cases)
(N=487 cases)
Percent Off AFDC
    Total Population
59.29%
68.79%
    Single- Parent Cases
60.62%
65.00%
    Two- Parent Cases
57.28%
74.87%
Percent Off AFDC With Quarterly Earnings Greater than $2,500
    Total Population
22.68%
26.08%
    Single- Parent Cases
19.38%
21.67%
    Two- Parent Cases
27.70%
33.16%
Outcomes in Rock County as of Fourth Quarter 1990 for programs initiated three years earlier, based on random assignment of clients to experimental and control group programs

DHSS Projected Caseload Trends Used to Claim Waiver "Savings"
graph

Factors Contributing to Lack of Overall Impact of Wisconsin Welfare Employment Programs

Large expenditures of state and federal funds for Wisconsin welfare employment programs have been shown to produce at best only modest impact and in many counties no measurable impact. The impact of these programs was diminished due to the effects of the economy which had begun a rapid improvement in spring of 1987. AFDC caseloads began declining significantly due to the improving economy well before the welfare reform waivers and most WEJT and CWEP programs went into effect. Other factors contributing to the lack of measurable impact of WEJT and CWEP programs include:

  1. The failure of DHSS officials to effectively target services to cases likely to remain long term AFDC recipients resulted in training resources going to populations likely to leave AFDC regardless of intervention. Targeting goals were not clearly defined or monitored throughout the implementation of the welfare programs. State officials identified the population of single parent families where the mother had less than a twelfth grade education as a target group most likely to benefit from training. However, this group did not receive any more training than two-parent households or households with a twelfth grade education or better.

    During the four years from 1987 to 1990, Milwaukee County received only 17.9 percent of the $91.6 million spent on employment and training under WEJT, CWEP and JOBS programs, even though the county had 40 percent of the AFDC caseload and 58 percent of AFDC parents without a high school diploma. Instead of targeting financial resources and programs to the population of AFDC recipients most likely to become long-term AFDC cases, state officials developed formulas which resulted in a disproportionate amount of funds being diverted to areas of the state outside Milwaukee County.

  2. Lack of adequate participant reporting mechanisms, poor monitoring of program performance, and incomplete financial records severely hampered the ability of state administrators to properly supervise the implementation of welfare employment and training initiatives. Inadequate state level administrative staffing and oversight have been detailed by internal DHSS evaluators and federal and state auditors. While the Department's budgeted funds for welfare employment programs were increased from $12 million in 1986-87 to $64 million for 1990-91, program expenditures were well below the funding levels, as evidenced by estimated surpluses of $20.8 million for programs in 1987-88, $36.9 million in 1988-89 and $25.3 million in 1989-90.

  3. The state legislature's prescribed workfare model for WEJT and CWEP programs was not adhered to by state and county officials. This resulted in the development of a service delivery plan similar to the WIN/WEOP job search model with enhanced services. Consequently, when the performance of WEJT and CWEP programs was compared to the existing WIN/WEOP model program operated by state Job Service, measurable impact was diminished.


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