THE first solid evidence is in that a new federal approach to
welfare begun in 1988 - to educate and put recipients back on the
job - works.
The validation comes in an analysis of the largest welfare
program in the United States to have adopted a welfare-to-work
approach, California's Greater Avenues for Independence, or GAIN,
In the project's first year of operation under the new federal
guidelines, welfare spending fell and participants' earnings
increased in as little as 12 months. Longer-term effects are
expected to be even greater.
"This is the first clear indication that a program with strong
emphasis on basic education can also show significant impacts on
employment and earnings the first year," says Mark Greenberg,
senior staff attorney at the Washington-based Center for Law and
The news is expected to fuel fresh support in dozens of states
to participate more fully in the federal JOBS program (Job
Opportunities and Basic Skills Training), the centerpiece of the
sweeping 1988 Family Support Act. The federal program provides up
to $1 billion annually for state welfare-to-work initiatives. Only
60 percent of those funds, offered as matching grants, are
currently being used.
Released today by the Manpower Demonstration Research
Corporation (MDRC), in New York City, the study included 33,000
welfare recipients in six California counties covering about half
the state's welfare population from mid-1988 to 1990.
Although results varied by county, MDRC found that single
parents (mostly mothers) in GAIN earned 17 percent more on average
than members of a control group. The GAIN group also received 5
percent less in welfare payments during the same period.
Individual counties showed even better gains than the overall
figures, which were kept low by first-year averages. In Riverside
County, for instance, the average earnings for single parents
increased 65 percent and welfare payments dropped by 12 percent.
The program operates in more than 58 counties under the
supervision of the State Department of Social Services.
Activities include job-seeking assistance; basic education
(general education, adult basic, and English-as-second-language);
occupational-skills training; on-the-job training; and
preemployment preparation. California has spent nearly $115 million
since 1989 in GAIN. It's gotten back $3 for every $2 invested.
GAIN is a mandatory participation program with a strong emphasis
on education. Recipients who fail to participate without good cause
in GAIN's services can have their welfare grants reduced or
Nationwide, cries for welfare reform have been amplified in
recent years by recession-strapped states scrambling to minimize
growing budget deficits. …