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The Pitfalls of Work Requirements in Welfare-to-Work Policies: Experimental Evidence on Human Capital Accumulation in the Self-Sufficiency Project

  • Riddell, Chris

    ()

    (Cornell University)

  • Riddell, W. Craig

    ()

    (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

This paper investigates whether policies that encourage recipients to exit welfare for full-time employment influence participation in educational activity. The Self-Sufficiency Project ('SSP') was a demonstration project where long-term welfare recipients randomly assigned to the treatment group were offered a generous earnings supplement if they exited welfare for full-time employment. We find that treatment group members were less likely to upgrade their education along all dimensions: high-school completion, enrolling in a community college or trade school, and enrolling in university. Thus, 'work-first'; policies that encourage full-time employment may reduce educational activity and may have adverse consequences on the long-run earnings capacity of welfare recipients. We also find that there was a substantial amount of educational upgrading in this population. For instance, among high-school dropouts at the baseline, 19% completed their diploma by the end of the demonstration. Finally, we simulate the consequences of the earnings supplement in the absence of adverse effects on educational upgrading. Doing so alters the interpretation of the lessons from the SSP demonstration.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 6378.

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Length: 43 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Journal of Public Economics, 2014, 117, 39-49
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6378
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  1. Rebecca M. Blank, 2002. "Evaluating Welfare Reform in the United States," NBER Working Papers 8983, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Philip K. Robins & Charles Michalopoulos, 2001. "Using financial incentives to encourage welfare recipients to become economically self-sufficient," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 105-123.
  3. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Jacob A. Klerman, 2006. "Evaluating the Differential Effects of Alternative Welfare-to-Work Training Components: A Re-Analysis of the California GAIN Program," NBER Working Papers 11939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Rebecca M. Blank & David Card & Philip K. Robins, 1999. "Financial Incentives for Increasing Work and Income Among Low-Income Families," JCPR Working Papers 69, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
  5. Ashenfelter, Orley & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Estimates of the Economic Returns to Schooling from a New Sample of Twins," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(5), pages 1157-73, December.
  6. Moffitt, Robert A., 2002. "Welfare programs and labor supply," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 34, pages 2393-2430 Elsevier.
  7. Eric A. Hanushek, 1986. "Non-labor-supply responses to the income maintenance experiments," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 30, pages 106-130.
  8. Kesselman, Jonathan R., 1976. "Tax effects on job search, training, and work effort," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(3), pages 255-272, October.
  9. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 2002. "Estimating Welfare Effects Consistent with Forward-Looking Behavior. Part I: Lessons from a Simulation Exercise," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 37(3), pages 570-599.
  10. David Card & Dean R. Hyslop, 2004. "Estimating the Effects of a Time Limited Earnings Subsidy for Welfare Leavers," NBER Working Papers 10647, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Michael P. Keane & Kenneth Wolpin, . "Eliminating Race Differences in School Attainment and Labor Market Success," CARESS Working Papres 97-5, University of Pennsylvania Center for Analytic Research and Economics in the Social Sciences.
  12. Blundell, Richard, et al, 2000. "The Returns to Higher Education in Britain: Evidence from a British Cohort," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(461), pages F82-99, February.
  13. Miller, Robert A. & Sanders, Seth G., 1997. "Human capital development and welfare participation," Carnegie-Rochester Conference Series on Public Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 1-43, June.
  14. Ana M. Ferrer & W. Craig Riddell, 2002. "The role of credentials in the Canadian labour market," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 35(4), pages 879-905, November.
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