• 0.24,1.00
  • 0.17,5.00
  • 0.15,1.00
  • 0.22,1.00

The Grand Rapids LFA program focused on rapid job placement for single-parent Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients to increase employment and earnings and to decrease benefit receipt.

The Grand Rapids LFA program focused on rapid job placement for single-parent Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients to increase employment and earnings and to decrease benefit receipt.

The Grand Rapids LFA program encouraged clients to move quickly into work without being selective about which job to take. Participants spent two weeks in a job club operated by public school staff, then began applying to jobs for up to three weeks. Participants who did not find a job during this period participated in unpaid work experiences, more job searching, vocational training, or basic education. Participants who completed job club but remained unemployed could receive multiple rounds of short-term education or vocational training for periods of nine months. Case managers focused primarily on monitoring and enforcing participation and could impose financial sanctions for nonparticipation. Child care and transportation assistance were available.

The program’s primary population included single parents who received AFDC and were required to enroll in the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills program. AFDC recipients were exempt from the enrollment requirement if they met any of the following: (1) had children younger than 1, (2) had 3 or more children younger than 10, (3) were employed 30 hours or more per week, (4) were medically unable to work, (5) were in the last trimester of pregnancy, (6) had resided in a mental institution at all during the previous 5 years, (7) had been enrolled in a rehabilitation center, or (8) were taking medication for a mental illness.

Similar LFA programs were implemented and tested in Atlanta, GA, and Riverside, CA. All three LFA programs were examined as part of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies that evaluated and compared the effectiveness of two distinct strategies for AFDC recipients: LFA and human capital development (HCD). LFA focused on placing people into jobs quickly to build work habits and skills, whereas HCD focused on providing education and training as a precursor to employment.

Year evaluation began: 1991
Populations and employment barriers: Cash assistance recipients, Parents, Single parents
Intervention services: Education, Sanctions, Supportive services, Training, Occupational or sectoral training, Unpaid work experience, Work experience, Job search assistance
Setting(s): Urban only

Effectiveness rating and effect by outcome domain

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Outcome domain Term Effectiveness rating Effect in 2018 dollars and percentages Effect in standard deviations Sample size
Increase earnings Short-term Supported favorable $3,117 per year 0.149 3012
Long-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $84 per year 0.004 3012
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 9% (in percentage points) 0.218 3012
Long-term Little evidence to assess support unfavorable -1% (in percentage points) -0.036 3012
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Supported favorable $-663 per year -0.241 3012
Long-term Supported favorable $-470 per year -0.171 3012
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support unfavorable -5% (in percentage points) -0.091 1158

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
39%
White
50%
Hispanic or Latino of any race
8%
American Indian or Alaska Native
2%
Unknown, not reported, or other
1%

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

Individuals were randomly assigned between September 1991 and January 1994. The study reports impacts five years after random assignment.

Organizations implementing intervention

Grand Rapids LFA was implemented by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which was the state agency for AFDC.

Populations served

All Grand Rapids LFA study participants were single parents who received AFDC benefits and were required to enroll in the JOBS program, a welfare-to-work program that required activities such as job searching, education, and job training as part of the Family Support Act of 1988. At the time of random assignment, 96 percent of participants were female, and the average participant was 28 years old. Half of participants were White; 39 percent of participants were Black or African American, not Hispanic; and 8 percent were Hispanic. Forty-one percent of participants did not have a high school diploma or GED.

AFDC recipients were exempt from the enrollment requirement if they (1) had children younger than 1, (2) had 3 or more children younger than 10, (3) were employed 30 hours or more per week, (4) were medically unable to work, (5) were in the last trimester of pregnancy, (6) had resided in a mental institution at all during the previous 5 years, (7) had been enrolled in a rehabilitation center, or (8) were taking medication for a mental illness.

Description of services implemented

The LFA program focused on rapid job placement. Staff encouraged clients to move quickly into work without being selective about which job to take. LFA program staff first assigned clients to a job club operated by public school staff in a community education center, which lasted for two weeks. Clients then spent up to three weeks applying to jobs. Clients had to make 6 in-person job inquiries or send 15 job inquiry letters per week. Participants who did not find a job during this period could go on to participate in unpaid work experiences, more job searching, vocational training, or basic education. Key elements of the program included the following:

  • Job clubs. Job clubs taught appropriate work behavior, job search skills, and career exploration. They included time for participants to call potential employers and schedule interviews from a “phone room.”
  • Basic education. Basic education programs included high school completion, GED, adult basic education, and English-as-a-second-language programs.
  • Vocational training. Vocational training was offered in areas such as automotive maintenance and repair, cabinet and furniture making, and truck driving. Participants could engage in vocational training for up to nine months.
  • Case management. Case managers, who had limited individualized involvement with clients, emphasized participation and enforced participation rules by requesting sanctions on nonparticipating clients. Case managers regularly visited service providers to ensure participants were attending programming. Case managers supported clients by directly paying child care providers and reimbursing transportation costs.
  • Sanctions. Sanctions were imposed by income maintenance staff and temporarily reduced AFDC grants by $88 per month. The first time participants were sanctioned, they had to meet participation requirements for five days before a sanction was lifted. Subsequent sanctions were only lifted after 10 days of appropriate participation.

Work experience, college education, and individual job search were available but were rarely assigned.

Service intensity

Job clubs lasted for about one month, and clients who completed job club but remained unemployed could receive multiple rounds of short-term education or vocational training for periods of nine months. The study did not specify how long the program monitored clients to confirm they participated in required activities.

Of the participants assigned to Grand Rapids LFA, 69 percent participated in any LFA activity, 48 percent participated in job search, and 31 percent participated in any education or training. Those who participated engaged in JOBS activities for an average of five months.

Comparison conditions

The comparison group for this study was randomly assigned. People in the comparison group could not receive any program services but were also not subject to program participation requirements (and therefore were not at risk of nonparticipation sanctions). These clients could, however, participate in employment-related activities available in their communities if they chose to pursue them.

Partnerships

A community education center provided job clubs. Adult education programs were primarily provided by state and local educational institutions (though some participants attended programming at a for-profit learning center). Job Training Partnership Act agencies, public schools, and community colleges offered vocational training.

Staffing

Case managers developed participants’ service plans, provided supportive services, monitored participation, and requested that sanctions be imposed or lifted. They had about 10 years of work experience and about 6 years of experience in their current position, on average, and they all held bachelor’s degrees. They did not receive formal training on the JOBS program, though supervisors explained policies and procedures to new staff. Case managers’ average caseload was 120 participants.

Income maintenance staff were authorized to impose and remove sanctions and referred individuals to the program. Their average caseload was 152 cases. On average, they had worked in their positions for 5.5 years. Less than one-third (30 percent) held a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Teachers in the Adult Education programs had an average of eight years of experience.

Local context

Grand Rapids LFA took place in Grand Rapids, MI. In 1993, the county unemployment rate was 5.5 percent. Grand Rapids averaged an AFDC caseload of 7,508, and the AFDC monthly grant was $474 for a family of 3. This grant amount was above the national median.

Fidelity measures

The study did not discuss any tools to measure fidelity to the intervention model.

Funding source

Grand Rapids LFA was funded by the state of Michigan and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Education programs were typically funded by state and local education departments.

Cost information

HCD cost $8,940 per participant, including $3,314 in postsecondary education, $1,804 in vocational training, $1,422 in job search, and $1,368 in basic education costs. Program services for the comparison group were estimated to be $6,953 per participant, so services for LFA participants cost an additional $1,987 per participant. The study did not discuss a comparison of costs and benefits.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1