How Well Are They Faring?

AFDC Families with Preschool-Aged Children in Atlanta at the Outset of the JOBS Evaluation.

By Kristin Moore, Martha Zaslow, Mary Jo Coiro, Suzanne Miller, Ellen Magenheim

The centerpiece of the 1988 Family Support Act (FSA) is the Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Training (JOBS) Program, which requires eligible recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) to participate in educational, job training and work experience, or job search activities, in order to reduce welfare dependency and promote self-sufficiency. Although most services offered through JOBS are aimed at meeting the needs of adults, there are numerous reasons to expect that JOBS may also affect children in families that receive AFDC.

The FSA legislation recommended a random assignment evaluation of the JOBS program to test its effectiveness, and this evaluation is currently being conducted by MDRC. The impacts portion of the JOBS Evaluation involves random assignment of more than 55,000 JOBS eligibles to either a control group or one or two program groups, in seven sites around the country. The impact study is designed to examine the effects of various JOBS approaches on individuals' employment status, earnings levels, receipt and amount of AFDC payments, income levels, and educational attainment, using two types of experimental designs. The design of the impact study, and rationale for choosing each of the seven sites, are described fully in “The JOBS Evaluation: Early Lessons from Seven Sites.” Because JOBS departs from earlier welfare-to-work programs by mandating the participation of parents whose children are as young as three years of age, a special substudy of these parents and children, called the Child Outcomes Study, is being conducted within the larger JOBS Evaluation to examine outcomes for young children.

The JOBS Child Outcomes Study has been designed to examine both the effects of JOBS on children and the mechanisms that explain any effects that are found. Data for the Child Outcomes Study are being collected for approximately 3,000 mothers and children in three sites: Fulton County, Georgia; Riverside County, California; and Kent County, Michigan. The Child Outcomes sample includes all eligible families with a youngest child aged three to five who are enrolled in the JOBS evaluation in these three sites. Analyses of the impacts of the JOBS program for children will rely on follow-up data collected in these three sites from mothers and children two years after random assignment and from schools approximately four years after random assignment.

The purposes of this report are to describe the lives and circumstances of this sample of AFDC families with preschool-aged children in Fulton County, Georgia and to inform policymakers about the mothers' goals and the development of their children. In addition, the study provides a context within which we will examine later impacts of the JOBS program on children.

Moore, Kristin, Martha Zaslow, Mary Jo Coiro, Suzanne Miller, and Ellen Magenheim. 1995. How Well Are They Faring?. New York: MDRC.