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The Long-Term Gains from GAIN: A Re-Analysis of the Impacts of the California GAIN Program

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  • V. Joseph Hotz
  • Guido W. Imbens
  • Jacob A. Klerman

Abstract

As part of recent reforms of the welfare programs in the U.S., many states and localities have refocused their Welfare-to-Work programs from an emphasis on human capital acquisition (i.e., providing basic education and vocational training) to an emphasis on "work-first," (i.e., moving welfare recipients into unsubsidized employment as quickly as possible). This change in emphasis has been motivated, in part, by results from the experimental evaluation, conducted by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), of California's Greater Avenues to Independence (GAIN) programs during the early 1990s. Their evaluation found that, compared to programs in other countries that emphasized skill accumulation, the work-first program in Riverside County had larger effects on employment, earnings, and welfare receipt. In addition, the Riverside program was cheaper per recipient than the other programs. The paper reexamines the GAIN programs from two complementary perspectives. First, we extend the earlier analysis through nine years post-randomization, which is the longest follow-up of any randomized training program, and find that the stronger impacts of Riverside County's work first program tend to shrink, whereas the weaker impacts for the human capital programs in Alameda and Los Angeles Counties tend to remain constant or even grow over time. Second, we develop and implement methods to allow the comparison of programs implemented by random assignment in different places despite striking differences in the composition of the participant populations. On a substantive level, our reexamination of the GAIN experiment lead us to conclude that although the work first programs were more successful than the human capital accumulation programs in the early years, this relative advantage disappears in later years. On a methodological level, our results suggest that--at least in this welfare context--these methods are a promising approach both for the estimation of program effects from non-experimental data and for extrapolating program results from one location to a different location with a different population mix.

Suggested Citation

  • V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Jacob A. Klerman, 2000. "The Long-Term Gains from GAIN: A Re-Analysis of the Impacts of the California GAIN Program," NBER Working Papers 8007, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8007
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. LaLonde, Robert J, 1986. "Evaluating the Econometric Evaluations of Training Programs with Experimental Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 604-620, September.
    2. Heckman, James J & Lochner, Lance & Taber, Christopher, 1998. "General-Equilibrium Treatment Effects: A Study of Tuition Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 381-386, May.
    3. Rajeev H. Dehejia & Sadek Wahba, 1998. "Causal Effects in Non-Experimental Studies: Re-Evaluating the Evaluation of Training Programs," NBER Working Papers 6586, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Heckman, J.J. & Hotz, V.J., 1988. "Choosing Among Alternative Nonexperimental Methods For Estimating The Impact Of Social Programs: The Case Of Manpower Training," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 88-12, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    5. Rajeev Dehejia, 2000. "Was There a Riverside Miracle? A Framework for Evaluating Multi-Site Programs," NBER Working Papers 7844, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Couch, Kenneth A, 1992. "New Evidence on the Long-Term Effects of Employment Training Programs," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 380-388, October.
    7. V. Joseph Hotz & Guido W. Imbens & Julie H. Mortimer, 1999. "Predicting the Efficacy of Future Training Programs Using Past Experiences," NBER Technical Working Papers 0238, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. James Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Jeffrey Smith & Petra Todd, 1998. "Characterizing Selection Bias Using Experimental Data," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 66(5), pages 1017-1098, September.
    9. Daniel Friedlander & David H. Greenberg & Philip K. Robins, 1997. "Evaluating Government Training Programs for the Economically Disadvantaged," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 35(4), pages 1809-1855, December.
    10. Robert J. LaLonde, 1995. "The Promise of Public Sector-Sponsored Training Programs," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 149-168, Spring.
    11. James J. Heckman & Hidehiko Ichimura & Petra Todd, 1998. "Matching As An Econometric Evaluation Estimator," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 65(2), pages 261-294.
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    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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