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
Issue Focus

Lawrence Katz explores questions raised by findings from the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project: the potential effect of behavioral nudges on long-term outcomes, determining who responds to behavioral nudges but would not otherwise participate in a program, and moving to higher-intensity efforts when low-cost interventions are not enough.

Issue Focus

Researchers developing behavioral interventions begin by defining a problem, identifying “bottlenecks” that might hamper desired outcomes, and designing and testing possible solutions. In this Expert Commentary from the final report on the Behavioral Interventions to Advance Self-Sufficiency (BIAS) project, Crystal Hall suggests three ideas for expanding the use of this process.

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.