• 0.14,1.00
  • 0.14,5.00
  • 0.16,1.00
  • 0.06,5.00
  • 0.34,1.00
  • 0.13,5.00
  • 0.09,2.00

The LFA program implemented in Riverside, CA, focused on rapid job placement for single-parent Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients to promote self-sufficiency.

The LFA program implemented in Riverside, CA, focused on rapid job placement for single-parent Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients to promote self-sufficiency.

The LFA program implemented in Riverside, CA, encouraged clients to move quickly into work without being selective about which job to take. Participants first spent one week in a job club operated by Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) program staff at the local public assistance office. Then, participants applied to jobs for at least two weeks and were required to make 25 to 35 employer contacts per week. Case managers were accountable for the employment and education outcomes of their clients and therefore encouraged success by recommending that participants take the first available job (including part-time or low-paying jobs) while full-time job developers continued searching for other opportunities for the participant. Case managers also emphasized program participation. Staff could impose financial sanctions (by reducing welfare grant amounts) if clients did not participate in required activities. The program also offered support with child care and transportation costs. The combined job club and job search time lasted for about five weeks month, and clients who completed job club but remained unemployed at the end of the five-week period could receive multiple rounds of short-term education or vocational training for periods of nine months.

Eligible participants included single parents who received AFDC and who were required to enroll in the JOBS program as a condition of continuing to receive public benefits. However, AFDC recipients were exempt from JOBS if they had children younger than 3, were employed 30 hours or more per week, were medically unable to work, or were in the last trimester of pregnancy. Riverside’s LFA program was evaluated as part of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Strategies that also tested LFA programs implemented in Atlanta, GA, and Grand Rapids, MI. The demonstration also compared the effectiveness of LFA programs versus Human Capital Development programs in Atlanta, GA; Grand Rapids, MI; and Riverside, CA. 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: Case management, Academic instruction, Sanctions, Supportive services, Work experience, Job development/job placement
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 $3,284 per year 0.157 6726
Long-term Supported favorable $1,611 per year 0.077 6726
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Supported favorable 14% (in percentage points) 0.339 6726
Long-term Supported favorable 5% (in percentage points) 0.126 6726
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Supported favorable $-391 per year -0.142 6726
Long-term Supported favorable $-374 per year -0.136 6726
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Little evidence to assess support unfavorable -1% (in percentage points) -0.022 1678

Participant race and ethnicity
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latino of any race
American Indian or Alaska Native

Implementation details

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Dates covered by study

Random assignment for the evaluation began in June 1991 and ended in June 1993. The full study encompassed a five-year follow-up period.

Organizations implementing intervention

The LFA program was part of Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN), Riverside County’s welfare-to-work program for AFDC recipients.

Populations served

Individuals in Riverside County receiving AFDC were deemed Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS)-mandatory if their youngest child was age 3 or older and the individual did not meet certain exemption criteria, such as having a disabling illness, being employed full time, living in a remote area that was inaccessible to program activities, or being in the second trimester or beyond of pregnancy. JOBS-mandatory individuals attended a JOBS orientation and went through study enrollment.

Nearly 90 percent of the sample population was female, and about 75 percent of the sample was between ages 25 and 44. About half of the participants were White, 29 percent were Hispanic, and 17 percent were Black. About 43 percent of participants had no high school diploma or GED. Only 42 percent had any earnings in the past 12 months. More than half (54 percent) had received AFDC for at least 2 years (cumulatively) in the past at the time of random assignment.

Description of services implemented

The Family Support Act of 1988 mandated local governments administering AFDC benefits to provide education, employment, and supportive services to AFDC recipients via a JOBS Training program. The JOBS program established basic requirements and expectations for an employment program, but states could determine what those services were. The Riverside LFA program was one such JOBS program.

The Riverside LFA program emphasized moving participants into jobs as quickly as possible, without them being too particular about which job they took. The LFA program services included the following components:

  • Case management. Case managers worked with participants to assess their work barriers and monitor their program attendance and progress. Case managers reported failure to comply with program requirements to income maintenance workers who would impose financial sanctions. Case managers recommended that participants take the first available job (including part-time or low-paying jobs) while full-time job developers continued searching for other opportunities for the participant.
  • Supportive services. Case managers authorized child care payments directly to child care providers. The program also provided bus passes or reimbursed miles driven for employment activities for clients with access to cars.
  • Work-readiness activities. Participants engaged in a three-week-long job club. The first week consisted of classroom instruction on how to search and apply for jobs, conduct interviews, prepare résumés, and identify participants’ work strengths and talents. Instruction included an individualized estimate of wages and hours necessary to make more than they received in welfare benefits. For the next two weeks, participants worked in the staffed phone room on-site, where they contacted employers and set up job interviews. Participants were required to contact 25 to 35 employers a week.
  • Job development. The program had full-time job developers on-site who contacted employers, searched for job opportunities, and notified program staff and participants about potential openings. Job developers also could help set up interviews for participants.
  • Education. Although many participants who completed job clubs without finding employment simply continued their job search, 7 percent were referred to short-term basic education and 35 percent to vocational training. These activities aimed to provide enough instruction to develop basic skills so clients could job search more successfully.

Service intensity

The instructional portion of job clubs lasted 1 week, and then participants spent 2 weeks in the phone room contacting employers. Clients attended job clubs between 15 and 30 hours per week.

Following JOBS orientation, a case manager would determine if a client was already participating in an activity that could be approved, exempted, or deferred from JOBS. Caseworkers assigned 68 percent of program participants to job search as their first program activity. Another 21 percent were not assigned a JOBS activity since they were engaged in other education or training activities that did not meet JOBS criteria but were still deemed beneficial, or they were deferred from employment due to illness, substance use and mental health challenges, transportation issues, or a housing move, among other reasons. The remaining participants entered part-time work (6 percent), vocational training (3 percent), or college (1 percent).

Comparison conditions

The evaluation used a three-way random assignment design that included the LFA program, a comparison group, and an alternate Human Capital Development (HCD) program group. The HCD approach was intended for participants deemed to need basic education, which included participants without a high school diploma or GED and those who received low scores on an assessment of reading skills, math skills, and English proficiency. The HCD approach emphasized investing in education and training before the job search, whereas LFA focused on finding employment as quickly as possible. The comparison between LFA and HCD only included individuals determined to need basic education. In contrast to LFA, more than half of HCD participants participated in basic education as a first activity.

Comparison group members were not mandated to participate in a welfare-to-work program but could enroll in other employment-related activities in their communities if they chose.


Riverside’s LFA program did not have partners involved in the intervention.


Staffing for the LFA program consisted of the following:

  • Program administrators, who managed the overall program, making decisions about program rules and establishing performance standards for case managers
  • Program supervisors, who oversaw case managers’ performance, including timeliness of actions taken with participants, proper authorization of supportive services, and completion of steps to sanction noncompliant participants
  • Case managers, who oversaw participants’ activities and progress through the job search and helped participants mitigate barriers to employment
  • Job developers, who sought out employment opportunities in the community for participants

Case managers underwent six weeks of classroom training, which included topics like conducting orientation and appraisals, making referrals to service providers, completing program forms, authorizing supportive services, and defusing challenging situations with clients.

In addition, income maintenance workers referred JOBS-mandatory AFDC applicants (those who were required to participate in JOBS as a condition of continuing to receive public assistance, as described below) to the LFA program, communicating the program requirements to clients and handling financial sanctions when necessary.

Local context

Riverside County is in California, about 55 miles east of Los Angeles. In the five years before this evaluation (1986 to 1990), Riverside County’s population increased by nearly 36 percent, changing from a small, remote community to an outer suburb of Los Angeles. Around the same time, the county’s economy was slowing down, and its unemployment rate was nearing 12 percent, suggesting participation in workforce programs might be higher than average during the study period.

LFA participants stayed in JOBS activities for an average of three months, after which they either were employed, left AFDC, or were no longer JOBS-mandatory.

Fidelity measures

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

Funding source

As California’s welfare-to-work program, GAIN received state and federal funding allocated for AFDC recipients, including the LFA program.

Cost information

The gross cost per Riverside LFA program participant within a five-year follow-up period was $6,045 (in 1999 dollars). This figure includes $2,217 attributable to the GAIN program for all employment-related services while a participant was receiving public benefits; $1,725 attributable to external agencies like community colleges and vocational training providers serving a participant while the participant was receiving benefits; and $2,104 attributable to GAIN and external agencies after a participant was no longer receiving benefits.

The study compared this gross cost per program participant to the gross cost per comparison group participant to calculate a net cost of $3,320 (in 1999 dollars). This means it cost $3,320 more to support an individual in the LFA program than it did to support an individual in the comparison group. These cost figures account for all costs related and unrelated to the JOBS program incurred by both the GAIN program and external agencies. Non-JOBS costs from GAIN were mainly for child care services, including authorized funds for transitional child care after parents left AFDC.

A cost-benefit analysis within a five-year follow-up period found that the program resulted in a net loss to the program participant of $1,145 (in 1999 dollars) per program group member. This means the sum of lost benefits and increase in taxes paid was estimated to be $1,145 higher than a participant’s income from any source. From the perspective of the government budget, the program resulted in a net gain of $1,545 (in 1999 dollars) per program group member, meaning tax revenue increases and savings in transfer payments and administrative costs exceeded the net cost of providing program services. The government gained $1.47 back for every net dollar invested in the LFA program.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1