GAIN: Benefits, Costs, and Three-Year Impacts of a Welfare-to-Work Program

| James A. Riccio, Daniel Friedlander, Stephen Freedman

This report presents the latest findings on the effectiveness of California’s Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) Program, a statewide initiative aimed at increasing the employment and self-sufficiency of recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), the nation’s major cash welfare program. Based on three years or more of follow-up data for 33,000 people who entered GAIN between early 1988 and mid-1990, the study examines the program’s effects in six counties on employment, earnings, welfare receipt, and other outcomes, as well as findings from a comprehensive benefit-cost analysis. The results are of broad relevance to welfare reform because California has the country’s biggest AFDC caseload and GAIN is the largest and one of the most ambitious programs operating under the federal Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) Program, created by the Family Support Act of 1988. Operating as California’s JOBS program since July 1989, GAIN currently accounts for almost 13 percent of federal spending on JOBS. GAIN is overseen by California’s Department of Social Services (CDSS) and administered by the 58 counties. This report is part of a multi-year evaluation conducted for CDSS by MDRC.