When Welfare-to-Work Programs Seem to Work Well: Explaining Why Riverside and Portland Shine So Brightly
Of welfare-to-work programs evaluated by random assignment, two stand out as having exceptionally large estimated effects: one in Riverside, California, and the other in Portland, Oregon. The authors use data from 24 evaluations and the tools of meta-analysis to examine why. The findings indicate that the apparently superior performance of these two programs in increasing the earnings of participants is only partly attributable to program design (for example, the type of services provided, the use of sanctions, and the quality of program administration). Differences in caseload characteristics and site characteristics are probably more important. However, Riverside and Portland’s relatively large effects in reducing the percentage of participants on the AFDC rolls appear mainly attributable to the design of the programs run in these sites.