Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Analyzing Washington state's welfare program design, workfirst

Axelsen, Dan and Snarr, Hal W. (2006): Analyzing Washington state's welfare program design, workfirst. Published in: Mountain Plains Journal of Business and Economics , Vol. 5, (2006)

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Abstract

Much debate in the early nineties centered on whether the federal entitlement program Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) reduced welfare dependency. Many contend that AFDC discouraged work, increased welfare dependency, and undermined the institution of family. Partly in response to these criticisms, welfare was reformed through the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) in 1996. PRWORA modified the primary objectives of welfare by placing more emphasis on work experience accumulation and less on human capital accumulation. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) was designed to meet this primary objective. Washington State’s TANF program, WorkFirst, utilizes a progressive system of programs (components) aimed at reducing welfare dependency through labor force participation. WorkFirst components have a variety of objectives including skills training, temporary subsidized employment, and mentoring. WorkFirst’s objective is to accumulate work experience of welfare recipients, thus making them more employable. More work experience should place upward pressure on wage rates, which then in turn reduces welfare dependency. We analyze the working decision as it is related to Washington State’s program design using a binary choice probit model. We find that welfare recipients who are enrolled in the later stage components of WorkFirst are more likely to find work and exit welfare than those that have only completed the initial components designed under WorkFirst. Cumulatively, WorkFirst seems to be an effective welfare program design.

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