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|Wednesday, January 13, 1999 |
Tommy G. Thompson
News Media Contact
DWD News Office
Most who left welfare or W-2
found, still hold jobs: state study
"Those and other findings suggest we may have underestimated the capabilities of both our W-2 participants and local W-2 agencies," said Linda Stewart, Secretary of the State Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
"Many people told us in the study their lives are improving, and our programs are having a positive impact."
Stewart said the pilot survey had two purposes:
- find out what happened to families who ended their participation in Wisconsins welfare program, either Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or Wisconsin Works (W-2), between January and March 1998 and did not return thereafter, and
- test the survey procedures themselves, in preparation for a series of similar studies of other time periods in the coming months,
The interviews, most by phone but some in person, were held between Aug. 21 and Nov. 6 with 375 individuals chosen at random who agreed to participate. Most of those contacted agreed.
Among the other key findings of the "leavers" participating in the sample:
"Thats significant because it approximates the 69 per cent of Wisconsins adult population currently holding payroll jobs a figure thats among the highest of all U.S. states," Stewart said.
"Getting a job is one of the first steps taken under W-2. Whether someone remains employed or loses a job, theres a broad array of support services that continue to be available to them under W-2."
"At least most, if not all, of them should have higher hopes of future employment, now that they have this experience under their belts and know that many others in the same program are finding and keeping jobs."
"They wouldnt be working full-time, or close to it, unless employers found them qualified to do so, or at least promising candidates for continued employment," Stewart indicated.
"Those figures are probably going to amaze some people," Stewart said. "Both are well above the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour. The average wage also about matches the $7.50 minimum hourly wage figure most commonly cited by those who favor the living wage concept."
"It also approximates the wages being paid in Wisconsins labor market to many who are working for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. As these W-2 participants gain more experience with their employers, their earnings also should rise."
Stewart said 53 per cent said they received some type of cash benefit, such as Social Security, while 23 per cent received non-cash benefits, and 18 per cent were living with a working spouse or co-parent.
Among other findings:
The rest said they or someone close to them was ill or injured, they had child care problems or wanted to stay with children, had been laid off, quit or were fired, couldnt get to work on time, or couldnt get along with co-workers. Smaller numbers had transportation problems or were in full- or part-time education or training.
"The reasons for not working are varied," Stewart said, "and some simply reflect personal preferences. Some of the other reasons are ones you expect to see when someone has never worked, or has not worked for awhile."
"Thats a great indication that we are on the right track, both with the goals of our welfare reform effort and with the design of the administrative operation that supports it," she said.
"This attempts to measure something much more subjective and provides a more mixed picture, " Stewart said. "But even of those who say they are just making it, at least they are now making it. Welfare doesnt get you out of poverty; getting and keeping a job can."
Stewart said many "leavers" said they still were receiving outside support, with significant percentages mentioning Medicaid, food stamps, and school lunch programs.
87 per cent said they had health insurance.
Stewart said the "got a job" category led with mention by 19 per cent of those interviewed, while 12 per cent said they didnt want AFDC or W-2, and those who said they earned too much or didnt want the "hassle" were tied at 9 per cent each.
Stewart said she was pleased to see that the "hassle" factor was a small, although measurable, percentage. "We want the program to be accessible but not without reasonable participation and reporting requirements. After all, thee are taxpayer dollars we are spending."
Jean Rogers, DWDs Economic Support Division administrator who administered AFDC and now W-2, said people also were asked how they were treated by their caseworkers (under AFDC) or Financial and Employment Planners (under W-2).
"One finding is that most did not like the welfare system," Rogers said. "The other was that 67 per cent thought they had been treated with perfect fairness by their caseworkers. Thats positive, and significant."
The study started with a random sample of 654 of the 3,564 cases to be studied.The final sample was reduced to 547 after some were used exclusively for a "pretest" and others no longer were eligible to be included because they had returned to W-2 or were found never to have been in W-2. Stewart said the 375 who agreed to participate was "an excellent response rate."
She noted that the research is part of the states continuing effort to learn the impact of welfare reform on helping people obtain and retain employment, so that officials can identify ways to improve W-2. The program represents a different, and more work-focused, welfare reform than found in most other states.
"The period we studied was a unique point in time for Wisconsins welfare program," Stewart said. "It was the final three months of a seven-month-long conversion of existing welfare recipients from AFDC to W-2. It also was a period when all new applicants for welfare were subject immediately to all the new W-2 requirements."
The study was funded by the Department and was conducted jointly by DWD and the University of Wisconsins Survey Research Laboratory.
The questionaire was modeled closely on one developed for use in South Carolina and which is being considered for use by other states, as well. The average telephone interview using the questionaire was 22 minutes.
Most who left welfare or W-2 found, still hold jobs: state study Copies of the studies in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.
Copies of the studies in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.