Abstracts of Reprints 830–840

Notes: IRP reprints are not available online or in hard copy due to copyright restrictions, please refer to the citation given in the article. Reprints are listed in reverse order of reprint number.

The Role of Randomized Field Trials in Social Science Research: A Perspective from Evaluations of Reforms of Social Welfare Programs

Robert A. Moffitt

RPT 840. 2004. 35 pp.

(American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 47, no. 5 [January 2004], pp. 506-540)

One of the areas of policy research where randomized field trials have been utilized most intensively is welfare reform. Starting in the late 1960s with experimental tests of a negative income tax and continuing through current experimental tests of recent welfare reforms, randomized evaluations have played a strong and increasing role in informing policy. This article reviews the record of these experiments and assesses the implications of that record for the use of randomization. The review demonstrates that the usefulness of randomized field trials in the area of welfare reform has been limited by a number of weaknesses, some of which are inherent in the method and some of which result from constraints imposed by the political process. The conclusion is that randomized field trials have an important but limited role to play in future welfare reform evaluations and that it is essential that they be supplemented by nonexperimental research.

What Happens to the Effects of Government-Funded Training Programs Over Time?

David H. Greenberg, Charles Michalopoulous, and Philip K. Robins

RPT 839. 2004. 17 pp.

(Journal of Human Resources, Vol. 39, no. 1 [Winter 2004], pp. 277–293)

This paper applies meta-analytic techniques to evaluations of voluntary training programs to investigate whether impacts of government-funded training programs on earnings grow or deteriorate over time. For adult men and youth, we find some evidence that, after initially increasing, earnings impacts diminish over time. For adult women, in contrast, the evidence suggests that earnings impacts initially grow and then remain undiminished. Given the scarcity of impact estimates for more than three years, we recommend that future studies measure these impacts for a longer period of time. Until this is done, cost-effectiveness assessments of training programs should allow for the possibility that, at least for adult women, earnings impacts might remain stable over time.

A Meta-Analysis of Government-Sponsored Training Programs

David H. Greenberg, Charles Michalopoulous, and Philip K. Robins

RPT 838. 2003. 23 pp.

(Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 57, no. 1 [October 2003], pp. 31–53)

This study uses meta-analysis to synthesize findings from 31 evaluations of 15 voluntary government-funded training programs for the disadvantaged that operated between 1964 and 1998. On average, the earnings effects of the evaluated programs seem to have been largest for women, quite modest for men, and negligible for youths. For men and women, the earnings effects of training appear to have persisted for at least several years after the training was complete. Classroom skills training was apparently effective in increasing earnings, but basic education was not. There is no evidence that more expensive training programs performed better than less expensive ones. Although the United States has more than three decades of experience in running training programs, the programs do not appear to have become more effective over time.

Explaining Variation in the Effects of Welfare-To-Work Programs

David Greenberg, Robert Meyer, Charles Michalopoulous, and Michael Wiseman

RPT 837. 2003. 36 pp.

(Evaluation Review, Vol. 27, no. 4 [August 2003], pp. 359–394)

Evaluations of government-funded training programs often combine results from similar operations in multiple sites. Findings inevitably vary. It is common to relate site-to-site variations in outcomes to variations in program design, participant characteristics, and the local environment. Frequently, such connections are constructed in a narrative synthesis of multisite results. This article uses data from the evaluations of California's Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program and the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies (NEWWS) to illustrate why it is important to question the legitimacy of such syntheses. The discussion is carried out using a simple multilevel evaluation model that incorporates models of both individual outcomes within sites and variation in program effects across sites. The results indicate that tempting generalizations about GAIN and NEWWS effects are statistically unjustified but that significant progress might be made in identifying the determinants of program effects in future demonstrations with some changes in evaluation strategy.

School-Based Early Intervention and Later Child Maltreatment in the Chicago Longitudinal Study

Arthur J. Reynolds and Dylan L. Robertson

RPT 836. 2003. 24 pp.

(Child Development Vol. 74, no. 1 [January/February 2003]: 3–26)

Investigated were the effects of participation in the Title I Child-Parent Centers (CPC) on substantiated reports of child maltreatment for 1,408 children (93% of whom are African American) in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. The CPCs provide child education and family support services in high-poverty areas. After adjusting for preprogram maltreatment and background factors, 913 preschool participants had significantly lower rates of court petitions of maltreatment by age 17 than 495 children of the same age who participated in alternative kindergarten interventions (5.0% vs. 10.5%, a 52% reduction). Participation for 4 to 6 years was significantly associated with lower rates of maltreatment (3.6% vs 6.9%, a 48% reduction). Findings based on child protective service records (as well as combined protective service and court records) were similar. Preschool length, family risk, and school poverty were associated with lower rates of maltreatment. Parental involvement in school and school mobility were significant mediators of intervention effects.

Experienced-Based Measures of Heterogeneity in the Welfare Caseload

Robert A. Moffitt

RPT 835. 2002. 27 pp.

(Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 473–499)

The approach taken in this chapter examines heterogeneity as measured by the recipient's own welfare experience (hence "experienced-based" measures of heterogeneity). The most important aspect of that experience is the amount of time the recipient has received welfare benefits, which is also a measure of the individual's degree of welfare "dependence." The most common measure of this type is the "total-time-on" measure, which denotes the total amount of time within a fixed calendar time interval that the individual has received welfare. Such total-time-on measures are, arguably, the best single measure of welfare dependence and have been assessed many times.

The analysis shows that the single most consistent predictor of labor market potential is the total amount of time a woman has been on welfare. However, whether that time arises from a larger number of shorter spells, or a smaller number of longer spells, is less consistently important; that is, neither turnover per se nor the length of individual spells of welfare receipt is always related to labor market characteristics holding constant the total time the individual has been on welfare. Relatedly, the analysis shows that classifying recipients into two groups is a useful predictor of labor market potential: short-termers who participate in welfare only occasionally and for short periods, and all others. However, among the latter group, whether an individual is a cycler who moves on and off the rolls frequently or a long-termer who has long, uninterrupted periods of welfare receipt, is not a consistent predictor of labor market potential. Further, when it is, it appears that cyclers have lower potential than long-termers.

Preexit Benefit Receipt and Employment Histories and Postexit Outcomes of Welfare Leavers

Michele Ver Ploeg

RPT 834. 2002. 58 pp.

(Studies of Welfare Populations: Data Collection and Research Issues, ed. Michele Ver Ploeg, Robert A. Moffitt, and Constance F. Citro [National Academy Press, 2002], pp. 415–472)

The purpose of this paper is to illustrate the importance of characterizing the composition of the caseload at the time the welfare leavers sample is drawn. The paper also aims to exemplify one method of standardizing results across different types of leavers with different benefit receipt and work histories in order to make the studies more comparable across time and across areas. We conclude that in examining the outcomes of welfare leavers, it is important to characterize the caseload by their past work experience and by their past benefit receipt history because outcomes vary widely across different work experience and benefit receipt backgrounds. Work history background is especially important, as the outcomes vary greatly according to different work experience groups. In terms of past benefit receipt history, the long-term versus short-term distinction is an important one. Distinctions by the number of spells of receipt show mixed results—sometimes this distinction matters, sometimes it does not.

The Dynamics of TANF Participation in Wisconsin

Maria Cancian, Daniel R. Meyer, and Geoffrey Wallace

RPT 833. 1999. 19 pp.

(The Journal of Applied Social Sciences, Vol. 25, no. 1 [Fall/Winter 2000–2001], pp. 57–75)

After the federal welfare reform legislation of 1996, Wisconsin implemented a radically different approach to providing assistance to low-income families. The new program emphasizes employment and has an explicit "self-sufficiency ladder" of several tiers. We use administrative data to examine transitions among these tiers and factors associated with transitions up or off. We find that most participants move out of the cash benefit tiers quite quickly, and skipping an intermediate tier is about as common as the step-by-step movement off benefits. Relatively few women return to a lower tier once they have left. Our findings on factors associated with various transitions under TANF are broadly consistent with the previous literature on AFDC: those with more human capital (higher education, longer employment history, and shorter AFDC history) are more likely to move up or off. We find that child support is associated with transitions from the Community Service Jobs tier but not from the lowest tier. We note that this finding should be interpreted with caution, and call for more research examining the role of child support, given that time limits, work requirements, and the lack of an entitlement to cash assistance have made nonwelfare sources of income essential.

Ten Years Later: Economic Well-Being Among Those Who Left Welfare

Daniel R. Meyer and Maria Cancian

RPT 832. 1999. 18 pp.

(The Journal of Applied Social Sciences, Vol. 25, no. 1 [Fall/Winter 2000–2001], pp. 13–30)

Using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979 through 1996, we describe the economic well-being of young single mothers who exited from the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) welfare program and examine outcomes over the ten years following their exit. We find some women achieve moderate levels of economic success: for example, one-quarter of the exiters were never poor or poor in only one of the first ten years post-welfare. Moreover, many results point to improvements in economic status over time. On the other hand, a substantial number of these women and their families remain economically vulnerable, with poverty rates particularly high when one examines only a woman's own income. Another troubling sign is that income growth and the decline in poverty are concentrated in the early years, with less improvement in economic status in the later years. Our results highlight that leaving welfare is not synonymous with leaving poverty.

Accounting for the Social and Non-Market Benefits of Education

Barbara Wolfe and Robert Haveman

RPT 831. 2001. 30 pp.

(The Contribution of Human and Social Capital to Sustained Economic Growth and Well-Being: International Symposium Report, ed. John F. Helliwell [published by OECD and HRDC, Canada, 2001], pp. 221–250)

The contribution of human and social capital, especially schooling, to economic growth and well-being has typically focussed on market outcomes, particularly labour market returns. In this paper, we focus on the social and non-market effects of education. We argue that these effects are large, perhaps as large as the marketed effects of education, and hence must be considered to correctly evaluate the optimum level of social (and public-sector) investment in schooling. We first catalogue the non-market and social outcomes of schooling, and identify the literature that discusses the evidence of such impacts. A number of published studies have attempted to assess the non-market effects of schooling. This paper updates their results where possible and expands the discussion to include results from the experiences of developing countries.

Patterns of Foregone Potential Earnings among Working-Age Males, 1975–1992

Robert Haveman, Lawrence Buron, and Andrew Bershadker

RPT 830. 2001. 25 pp.

(Working Time in Comparative Perspective. Volume 1: Patterns, Trends, and the Policy Implications of Earnings Inequality and Unemployment, ed. Ging Wong and Garnett Picot [W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, 2001], pp. 145–169)

We use a new statistical indicator, foregone potential earnings (FPE), to measure the extent to which the prime-age male population underutilizes its human capital. We define the annual value of an individual's human capital to be the amount that an individual would earn if he worked full time, full year. This amount is the individual's potential earnings. FPE is the gap between an individual's actual earnings and his potential earnings and is thus an indicator of the underutilization of human capital. We use our indicator to examine trends in human capital underutilization for the entire population of working-age males, and for various population subgroups, during the 1975–1992 period. We also examine trends in the reasons given for the failure to fully utilize human capital. We find that over that period, per capita FPE increased by almost 3 percent for all working-age males. This increase stems from a 12 percent decrease in real per capita earnings and a 10 percent decrease in the real per capita potential earnings of these individuals. When we aggregate the reasons given for underutilization into exogenous constraints on working and individual preferences for not working, we find that the share of FPE attributable to the former has declined, while FPE attributable to the latter has risen. This shift is particularly pronounced for older, less educated, nonwhite men.

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