Since its founding, MDRC has been a leading developer and evaluator of programs to improve the self-sufficiency and economic circumstances of welfare recipients and their families. MDRC’s pathbreaking studies of welfare reform initiatives have provided reliable evidence on the effects of welfare-to-work mandates and the effectiveness of programs and services for people who receive public assistance.

The Latest
Report

The BIAS project tested behavioral interventions in child support, child care, and work support programs with nearly 100,000 low-income clients in eight human services agencies. Each site saw at least one significant, low-cost impact. The findings suggest that small environmental changes can enhance client-agency interactions and expanded behavioral strategies might help strengthen programs and policies.

Issue Focus

This issue focus describes how MDRC’s Center for Applied Behavioral Science has completed several large-scale field studies, incorporated behavioral science into other MDRC projects, and educated policymakers and practitioners about how to use behavioral science to improve their programs.

Key Documents
Testimony

Issues in the Reauthorization of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, MDRC President Gordon Berlin describes recent trends in TANF, particularly during the economic downturn, and discusses what research and experience have to tell say about moving forward with the reauthorization of the federal welfare program.

Report

A Synthesis of Research

Most welfare programs seek to ensure that poor families have adequate income while at the same time encouraging self-sufficiency. Based on studies of 28 programs involving more than 100,000 sample members, this synthesis compares the costs, benefits, and returns on investment of six welfare program strategies – from the perspectives of participants, government budgets, and society as a whole.

Working Paper

Seeds of a Revolution

This working paper describes the revolution in the United States in support for the use of randomized controlled experiments to evaluate social programs. Focusing on the welfare reform studies conducted between 1970 and the early 2000s, it presents the major challenges to winning this support and how they were overcome.