NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Best Welfare-To-Work Programs Combine Work And Study, Says GAO

September 21, 1999

After reviewing 10 long-term welfare-to-work studies, the General Accounting Office has concluded that programs that combine "rapid employment" with education or training work best for those coming off welfare. Analysts have long debated which should come first: finding a job or entering training.

Here are some of the GAO's conclusions and observations:

  • Neither a jobs-first nor an education-first policy produced superior results -- although education-first programs were twice as costly as programs which stressed work initially.
  • A combined approach was most likely to increase employment and earnings for welfare parents and reduce their need for welfare.
  • Many welfare offices have become "job placement centers" -- which has coincided with a 45 percent decline in case loads.

More studies are needed, the GAO added, to assess how the current crop of welfare-to-work programs are faring under the 1996 welfare reform law -- which after decades of federal welfare management, turned welfare responsibilities over to the states.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "'Combined Approach' Serves Best," Washington Times, September 21, 1999; "Welfare Reform: Assessing the Effectiveness of Various Welfare-to-Work Approaches," Letter Report, GAO/HEHS-99-179, September 7, 1999, General Accounting Office, Washington, D.C.


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