A randomized control evaluation of the Portland Welfare-to-Work program that assigned many people to short-term education, vocational training, work experience, and life skills training to improve their employability.

"An evaluation of mandatory welfare-to-work programs in seven sites called the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS Evaluation), conducted by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with support from the U.S. Department of Education. The report examines the mandatory welfare-to-work program run in Portland. Through the program, Portland provided employment and support services to a broad cross section of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) caseload, including parents with children as young as one year old. These people were required to participate in program activities or face reductions in their welfare grants. Although the program studied was designed and implemented prior to the 1996 reform, its overarching goal was similar to that of the new law: to foster the self-sufficiency of adult recipients through increased employment and decreased welfare receipt.  This report describes the implementation, participation patterns, and cost of the Portland program, and presents estimates of the effects of the program on employment, earnings, and welfare receipt during the two years following people’s entry into the program." (p. ES-1-2) (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Program cost and cost per participant are discussed in detail (p. 65-84)

Full Publication Title: National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies: Implementation, Participation Patterns, Costs, and Two-Year Impacts of the Portland (Oregon) Welfare-to-Work Program


Major Findings & Recommendations

• "Portland’s program was unusually successful in moving people into jobs, increasing their earnings, and moving them off welfare. This success occurred in a specific context: Portland’s caseload was predominantly white, minimizing the chances of racial discrimination in the labor market; a high percentage of the caseload entered the program with a high school diploma or GED certificate; and Portland’s economy was very strong during the study period, with low un- employment and substantial job growth. • The Portland program substantially increased employment and produced unusually large increases in earnings. The program raised employment levels by 11 percentage points over two years (relative to the control group). More than one out of every four welfare recipients who normally would not have worked in an unsubsidized job during the two-year follow-up period did so as a result of the program. In addition, two-year earnings were increased by over $1,800 per sample member, a 35 percent increase over the control group’s earnings. • Unlike many programs that produce immediate impacts on employment and earnings, the Portland program increased job quality. At the end of two years, the program increased the proportion of people working at full-time jobs by 13 percentage points and, among those employed, increased average hourly pay by $0.86. It increased the proportion of people with employer-provided health benefits by 10 percentage points. • The program reduced welfare expenditures by 17 percent over the two-year follow-up period. Relative to the average total welfare payments that people in the control group received over the two years, the program reduced per person expenditures by almost $1,200. By the end of the follow-up period, only 41 percent of program group members were receiving welfare compared to 53 percent of control group members, a decrease of 12 percentage points. • Over the two-year follow-up period, program group members’ average combined income from earnings, AFDC, and Food Stamps was not substantially higher than that of control group members. However, more positive results at the end of the follow-up period suggest that the program group may become financially better off in the future. Program group members’ two-year earnings gains were largely offset by losses in AFDC and Food Stamps. Quarterly impact trends suggest that income gains may emerge in the third year of follow-up" (p. ES-3, 4). (Abstractor: Author)