• 0.13,5.00
  • 0.07,2.00
  • 0.12,5.00
  • 0.14,2.00
  • -0.08,1.00
  • 0.03,5.00

To support future employment, the HCD program implemented in Riverside, CA, focused on providing education and training to single parents who were Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients.

To support future employment, the HCD program implemented in Riverside, CA, focused on providing education and training to single parents who were Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) recipients.

The HCD program implemented in Riverside, CA, stressed that participants should spend time receiving education or training to prepare for good jobs. If participants did not have a high school diploma or general education diploma, the program provided basic education classes in the public school system to help participants make progress toward their goals (such as increasing their literacy level). Case managers were accountable for the employment and education outcomes of their clients and therefore encouraged success and emphasized and enforced 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. Riverside’s HCD program expected that most clients would complete training or educational activities within two years but would approve longer durations based on participant needs.

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. Similar HCD programs were implemented and tested in Atlanta, GA, and Grand Rapids, MI. Riverside’s HCD program was 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: HCD and labor force attachment (LFA). HCD focused on providing education and training as a precursor to employment, whereas LFA focused on placing people into jobs quickly to build work habits and skills.

Year evaluation began: 1991
Populations and employment barriers: Cash assistance recipients, Parents, Single parents
Intervention services: Case management, Academic instruction, Sanctions, Supportive services
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 Not supported unfavorable $-1,652 per year -0.079 2328
Long-term Supported favorable $1,130 per year 0.054 3135
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase employment Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable 0% (in percentage points) 0.001 3135
Long-term Supported favorable 5% (in percentage points) 0.118 3135
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Decrease benefit receipt Short-term Little evidence to assess support favorable $-157 per year -0.057 2328
Long-term Supported favorable $-473 per year -0.172 3135
Very long-term No evidence to assess support
Increase education and training All measurement periods Supported favorable 7% (in percentage points) 0.136 1350

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

Riverside HCD operated under California’s Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) program, which was Riverside County’s welfare-to-work program for people receiving AFDC. HCD was part of California’s JOBS program.

Populations served

People in Riverside County receiving AFDC were deemed 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. Participants who attended a JOBS orientation were eligible for random assignments into HCD or a counterfactual group if they lacked a high school diploma or GED, had low reading and math skills as determined by an assessment at orientation, or if they were not proficient in English.

The study provided descriptive statistics for the full sample participating in JOBS but did not present separate statistics for the subset assigned to the HCD program. Nearly 90 percent of the JOBS population was female, and about 75 percent of the sample was between ages 25 and 44. About half of the participants were White, not Hispanic; 29 percent were Hispanic; and 17 percent were Black or African American, not Hispanic. About 43 percent of participants had no high school diploma or GED. Forty-two percent reported having earned some income in the previous 12 months. More than half (54 percent) had received AFDC for at least two years (cumulatively) at the time of random assignment.

Description of services implemented

The theory of HCD was that investing in a participant’s education and work skills before a job search would prepare individuals for longer-term job success. Program services included the following:

  • Case management. Case managers discussed participants’ educational history, work history, career interests, and skill levels to create an employment development plan. Case managers also helped clients arrange child care and mitigate other employment barriers. They monitored clients’ attendance and progress in programs and could report noncompliance to income maintenance workers to impose sanctions if needed. Case managers carried average caseloads of 118 participants.

  • Education. Case managers assigned most HCD participants to adult basic education classes, which provided reading and math instruction for people whose scores in these subjects were at the eighth-grade level or lower. HCD participants could also attend GED preparation classes and English as a second language classes. Although the HCD program sought to increase an individual’s education and work skills, Riverside staff treated education as a tool for moving toward employment instead of for gaining credentials. Participants could move to the next class or level after they reached a test score or competency benchmark instead of waiting to complete the entire course or to receive a certificate or other credential.

  • Work-readiness activities. After completing a basic education program, HCD participants who did not obtain employment could be required to participate in a job club for three weeks. During the first week of classroom instruction, participants learned how to search and apply for jobs, conduct interviews, and prepare résumés, and identified their 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.

  • 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. Case managers could also approve client reimbursement for ancillary expenses like work uniforms, interview clothes, and schoolbooks and school supplies.

Service intensity

After the JOBS orientation, caseworkers assigned 57 percent of HCD participants to basic education as their first program activity. About one-quarter of participants were not assigned to a JOBS activity because they were engaged in other activities that did not meet JOBS criteria but were still deemed beneficial, or they were deferred from participation after their appraisal. Fourteen percent were assigned to or permitted to continue with their employment, 3 percent were assigned to vocational training, and 2 percent were assigned to job search.

HCD participants were expected to complete their educational assignment within 6 to 12 months. On average, adult education classes met four days a week, for an average of 16.5 hours per week. A two-year follow-up survey found Riverside HCD participants were active in JOBS activities for an average of 5.7 months, suggesting they quickly found jobs, stopped receiving AFDC benefits, or both. Only 8 percent of HCD participants were engaged in JOBS activities for more than 12 months.

Comparison conditions

The evaluation used a three-way random assignment design that included the HCD program, a comparison group, and an alternate LFA program group. The LFA program encouraged participants to find employment as quickly as possible, regardless of the type of job. For the Riverside HCD intervention study, the comparison group consisted of those who did not receive HCD or LFA program services, and only included individuals who needed basic education and met the same education eligibility criteria as the HCD program group.

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 HCD partnered with local public schools to provide adult education courses. Riverside Adult School, which is part of the Riverside Unified School District and seeks to teach skills necessary for the workforce or postsecondary education, enrolled the highest number of JOBS participants. Schools did not exclusively serve JOBS clients.


Staffing for the HCD program consisted of the following:

  • Program administrators, who managed the overall program, made decisions about program rules, and established 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 and helped participants mitigate barriers to employment.

  • Job developers, who sought employment opportunities in the community for participants.

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

All case managers had at least a high school diploma, and 31 percent had only a high school diploma. Thirty-one percent held a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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 have been higher than average during the study period.

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 recipients of AFDC, including the HCD program.

Cost information

Employment-related services received by HCD program participants cost $6,632 (in 1999 dollars) per participant over five years. This cost includes $3,284 attributable to the GAIN program for all employment-related services while a participant was receiving public benefits; $2,318 attributable to external agencies like the adult basic education providers offering services while a participant was receiving public benefits; and $1,031 attributable to GAIN and external agencies for supportive services and participation in other job-related activities after a participant was no longer receiving AFDC benefits. Although the costs for services after a participant no longer received benefits did not reflect costs directly associated with the program, the study included these services because they could affect the earnings and benefits receipt of program participants and the comparison group differently, and therefore are important for understanding how costs relate to outcomes of the two groups. The study found it cost $4,573 more to support an individual in the HCD program than it did to support an individual in the comparison group.

A cost-benefit analysis examined costs and benefits to the participant and the government:

  • The participant. The HCD program resulted in a loss to the program participant of $2,951, meaning the sum of lost benefits and increase in taxes paid was estimated to be $2,951 higher than a participant’s income from any source over five years.

  • The government. The HCD program resulted in a gain to the government of $606 per program participant, meaning tax revenue increases and savings in transfer payments and administrative costs exceeded the net cost of providing program services. The government gained back $1.13 for every dollar spent on services for HCD participants.

Studies of this intervention

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Study quality rating Study counts per rating
High High 1