Wisconsin Studies (W-2)

W-2 Applicants Study

The first wave of the W-2 Applicants Study was designed to (1) examine the Wisconsin Works (W-2) application process; (2) describe the frequency of applicant dropouts prior to eligibility determination; and (3) follow the post-application program participation and earnings of W-2 participants and dropouts. Analysis was principally based on observations and interviews in the four largest W-2 agencies in the fall of 2006 and analysis of case records and administrative data for individuals applying for W-2 in the same period.
Reports include:

The Earnings and Income of Wisconsin Works (W-2) Applicants
Maria Cancian and Marci Ybarra, September 2008

Report | PowerPoint Presentation available in PDF format

Wisconsin Works (W-2) Applicant Study: Analysis of W-2 Application-Process Dropouts
Marci Ybarra and Jennifer L. Noyes, March 2008
Wisconsin Works (W-2) Applicant Study: The W-2 Application Process
Marci Ybarra and Thomas Kaplan, March 2007

Interview: A Decade of W-2

"Are Wisconsin’s low-income families better off or worse off since the state launched its welfare reform initiative called Wisconsin Works (W-2) ten years ago?"

This question was posed in fall 2007—W-2’s tenth anniversary—by Bob Jacobson of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families (WCCF) to two Wisconsin Works experts. The interview, of IRP Researcher Jennifer Noyes, a former Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development administrator, and Pam Fendt, Director of the Good Jobs and Livable Neighborhoods Coalition, was published in WisKids Journal, a WCCF publication.

Child Support Demonstration Evaluation Reports

In 1997 IRP launched the Child Support Demonstration Evaluation (CSDE), a major evaluation of the innovative child support component of Wisconsin Works, the state’s welfare reform program. Under CSDE, families entitled to child support generally retained the entire amount paid on their behalf. Wisconsin's experiment with “passing through” and “disregarding” all child support to resident-parent families was cited by President George W. Bush as an influence on related sections of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

Reports of the Child Support Demonstration Evaluation contain extensive discussion of experiences of families participating in the W-2 program.

The Three-Panel Survey of Milwaukee Applicants to Wisconsin Works (W-2)

In May 2006 Chapin Hall published an Issue Brief summarizing the final results of this study.

What Happens to Families under W-2 in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin: Report from Wave Two of the Milwaukee TANF Applicant Study (September 2003)
A. Dworsky, M. Courtney, and I. Piliavin

[Executive Summary (pdf, 12 pp) | Full Report (pdf, 108 pp)]. For a printed copy of the report, please contact Flora Lazar, director of public affairs at Chapin Hall at flazar@uchicago.edu or 773-256-5212.

I. Piliavin, M. Courtney, and A. Dworsky (July 2001)

The report presents findings from the first wave of a three-wave panel survey of the experiences of families living in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, who applied for assistance from W-2 in the spring and summer of 1999.

Wisconsin Works (W-2): "Where Do We Go from Here?" DWD White Paper Series

Researchers from IRP, the Hudson Institute, and the Urban Institute have collaborated on a series of White Papers prepared for the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development. Their purpose is to provide a framework through which some of the questions most relevant to the evolution of W-2 can be addressed. The White Papers, collected under the title, "Wisconsin Works (W-2): "Where Do We Go From Here?" are discussed at the DWD web site. Available White Papers are:

  • What Is A "Case" in Postreform Wisconsin? Reconciling Caseload with Workload, Rebecca J. Swartz (Hudson Institute)
  • Wisconsin Works: Meeting the Needs of the Harder to Serve Populations, Kelley S. Mickelson (Urban Institute)
  • Toward Work Stability and Career Advancement -- The Next Stage of Reform, Tom Corbett & Rachel Weber (IRP)

Also posted at the DWD site is W-2 Achievements and Challenges: An Overview and Interpretation of the White Papers, Rebecca J. Swartz (Hudson Institute) & Tom Corbett (IRP).

IRP Publications on Wisconsin Studies

How Do Welfare Sanctions Work?
C-F. Wu, M. Cancian, D. R. Meyer, and G. Wallace

Under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), families are subject to greater work requirements, and the severity of sanction for noncompliance has increased. Utilizing Wisconsin longitudinal administrative data, we employ event history analysis to examine the dynamic patterns of sanctioning and the patterns of benefits following a sanction. (DP 1282-04)

The Employment, Earnings, and Income of Single Mothers in Wisconsin Who Left Cash Assistance: Comparisons among Three Cohorts (2003)
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, D. Meyer, B. Wolfe

This report uses administrative data from Wisconsin to compare employment, earnings, and income outcomes for welfare leavers under early AFDC reforms and under the later, more stringent TANF program. It considers outcomes for women leaving welfare in 1999, updating an earlier analysis of those who left welfare in 1995 and 1997. There are substantially higher rates of exit in the later period. These later leavers are somewhat more likely to work, but their earnings are lower. (SR 85. pdf. 53 pp.)

Patterns of Long-Term Utilization of Medicaid and Food Stamps by Wisconsin Welfare Leavers (2002)
R. Haveman, T. Kaplan, and B. Wolfe, with S. Barone

The report describes the long-term utilization of Food Stamp and Medicaid benefits for two cohorts of welfare recipients who left the rolls in Wisconsin in 1995 and 1997. Correlates of the decision to participate in these benefits are explored and participation rates of a variety of prototypical family heads are simulated. (A preliminary version appeared as SR 79.) (SR 82. pdf. 146 pp.)

The Take-Up of Medicaid and Food Stamps by Welfare Leavers: The Case of Wisconsin (2001)
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, T. Kaplan, D. Meyer, I. Rothe, B. Wolfe, with S. Barone

Reports of decreases in Food Stamp and Medicaid participation rates following passage of welfare reform legislation in 1996 raised concerns about the health care coverage and nutritional status of families formerly receiving cash welfare. This report describes participation for two cohorts leaving welfare in Wisconsin: those who left in 1995, under early welfare reform, and those who left two years alter. (SR 79. pdf. 40 pp.)

Welfare Reform in Wisconsin: The Local Role
L. M. Mead

The author explains how the leading counties and the state government worked interactively to transform welfare in Wisconsin. (DP 1232-01)

Implementing Work Requirements in Wisconsin
L. M. Mead

The author finds that after Wisconsin required more welfare recipients to participate in work programs and attuned the bureaucracy to its goals using funding incentives, the state's welfare rolls were driven down. (DP 1231-01)

Government Quality and Welfare Reform
L. M. Mead

The author uses cross-sectional models based on states, measures welfare reform policies directly using program data, and relates these policies to background features of states' politics and government. Results show that grant levels, work and child support requirements, and sanctions are important explainers of caseload change. These policies in turn are tied to states' political opinion, political culture, and institutional capacity. (DP 1230-01)

Involvement of TANF Applicants with Child Protective Services
M. E. Courtney, I. Piliavin, and Peter Power

An examination of the involvement of a sample of TANF applicants in Milwaukee with the child welfare system, both before and after their application for TANF assistance, finds a high level of overlap between TANF and child welfare populations.
(DP 1229-01)

Before and After TANF: The Economic Well-Being of Women Leaving Welfare (2000)
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, D. Meyer, and B. Wolfe

This report compares the economic well-being of those who left welfare under early Wisconsin reforms (4th quarter of 1995) with those who left under the later, more stringent TANF program (4th quarter of 1997). It also provides three-year outcomes for those who left under the early reforms to examine changes in well-being over time. (SR 77. pdf, 64 pp.)

M. Cancian, R. Haveman, T. Kaplan, D. Meyer, I. Rothe, and B. Wolfe, with assistance from S. Barone

This report describes Food Stamp and Medicaid participation for women leaving cash welfare in 1995, under early welfare reform, and those who left welfare in 1997.

I. Piliavin, M. Courtney, and A. Dworsky
The Dynamics of TANF Participation in Wisconsin
M. Cancian, D. Meyer, and G. Wallace

RPT 833 (The Journal of Applied Social Sciences, Vol. 25, no. 1 [Fall/Winter 2000-2001], pp. 57-75)

Wisconsin's radically different approach to providing assistance to low-income families emphasizes employment and has an explicit "self-sufficiency ladder" of several tiers. We use administrative data to examine transitions among these tiers. 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.

Wisconsin's W-2 Program: Welfare as We Might Come to Know It?
T. Kaplan

RPT 814 (Learning from Leaders: Welfare Reform Politics and Policy in Five Midwestern States, ed. C. Weissert [Albany, New York: Rockefeller Institute Press, 2000], pp. 77-118.

This chapter describes the design and early implementation of Wisconsin's welfare reform plan, Wisconsin Works (W-2). The chapter discusses reasons behind the political consensus that led to passage of the legislation and also describes the first 18 months of W-2 implementation.

Outcomes for Low-Income Families under the Wisconsin AFDC Program: Understanding the Baseline So That We Can Estimate the Effects of Welfare Reform (1999)
M. Cancian, T. Kaplan, and D. Meyer

Examines outcomes for randomly selected AFDC cases open in July 1990 and a second sample of all cases that began a new welfare spell in the following 11 months. Results are provided for three calendar years for each sample. (SR 76. pdf, 96 pp.)

Post-Exit Earning and Benefit Receipt Among Those Who Left AFDC in Wisconsin (1999)
M. Cancian, R. Haveman, T. Kaplan, and B. Wolfe, with assistance from S. Barone and D. Ross

The report explores the characteristics of those mother-headed families who left AFDC after July 1995 compared to those who remained, and examines how they fared during the 15 months after they left the Wisconsin AFDC program. (SR 75. pdf, 105 pp.)

New Hope and W-2: Common Challenges, Different Responses (1999)
T. Kaplan and I. Rothe

[Abstract | Full report (pdf, 37 pp.)]

Statecraft: The Politics of Welfare Reform in Wisconsin
Lawrence M. Mead

Wisconsin's reform of family welfare is the most radical and, arguably, the most successful in the nation. This is not due to anything special about the welfare problem or public opinion in the state but rather to special features of the state's politics and government. Reform is radical, but at the same time it has been largely bipartisan. Two background conditions have helped shape this political environment-Wisconsin's cohesive society and its masterful government, the product of its Progressive past. (DP 1184-99)