Welfare Leavers Find Jobs But Not Benefits, Study Finds
By Mary Guiden, Staff Writer
Researchers in Washington State want to change that, and have just released the first year results of a study that will track the experiences of 3,000 welfare-to-work families over five years.
The WorkFirst Study has both local and national implications, since many state programs have similar job training, incentives and time limits provisions in place to wean millions of people off cash assistance.
Despite limited education and job skills, thousands of welfare recipients--or 60 percent surveyed--have found work, the study finds. "Even people with what we think of as significant barriers--things like a lack of schooling or living in a rural area--got jobs," says Kathy Davis, communications coordinator for WorkFirst.
The study, which was conducted by the Social and Economic Science Research Center at Washington State University, also found that 12 weeks of pre-employment training in the skills needed for a specific job made people 23 percent more likely to be employed. Results like this may help policymakers decide what might be helpful when fine-tuning welfare reform programs, say researchers.
Not all of the findings were positive, however. Fewer than half the respondents said they received benefits like paid vacation or health insurance at their most recent job. In addition, one-third of people who got jobs returned at least temporarily to the welfare rolls within a year. This type of an on-and-off cycle may pose a challenge to policymakers when recipients begin to reach their five-year lifetime limit for cash assistance.
With additional analysis of the data, researchers hope to find out why one-third of working people came back on the welfare rolls. "We're trying to pinpoint what things are helping and what things aren't," Davis says.