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Using Administrative Data to Examine the Efficacy of Welfare-to-Work Programs


  • Peter Mueser

    (University of Missouri-Columbia)

  • Sharon Ryan

    (University of Missouri-Columbia)

  • Melinda Thielbar

    (University of Missouri-Columbia)


This paper investigates the feasibility of measuring the efficacy of programs designed to move welfare recipients into jobs using administrative records on individual program participation linked with state records on individual earnings. Like many states, Missouri collects quarterly earnings for all individuals covered by its unemployment insurance system. We have linked this information to administrative records listing participants in the FUTURES program, Missouri's welfare-to-work program developed under federal JOBS legislation. We are able to distinguish those forced to participate in the program from those who chose to participate. In addition, since a waiting list was used to allocate individuals to the program during the period of our study, those on the waiting list who were not chosen to receive services may serve as a control group. Our analysis indicates that volunteers and required participants differ in ways consistent with administrative rules. The process by which individuals were selected from the waiting list also reflected such rules. Selection did not appear to favor those whose characteristics would suggest employment success. Estimates of program impact on participant earnings underscore the importance of controlling for a variety of characteristics, in particular prior earnings and employment experience, and of distinguishing volunteers from those required to participate. Ordinary least squares estimates of program impact are modest but positive and statistically significant, and they are generally consistent with expectations. Instrumental variables estimates are similar, suggesting that individual differences in willingness to remain on the waiting list are not an important source of bias in estimated impact.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter Mueser & Sharon Ryan & Melinda Thielbar, 1999. "Using Administrative Data to Examine the Efficacy of Welfare-to-Work Programs," Labor and Demography 9905002, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:9905002
    Note: 48 pages (title page, abstract page, 36 numbered pages, and 10 pages of tables), all in WordPerfect 8

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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