While much of the welfare reform debate has centered on the supply side of the labor market-how to motivate welfare recipients to search for and take jobs-less attention has been paid to the demand side. Under what conditions will employers hire people on welfare? What are their requirements and expectations? What kinds of jobs are available to people leaving welfare, and what pay and benefits are offered?
This brief presents the key results of a nationwide survey conducted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) as part of the Assessing the New Federalism project to determine employers' attitudes about hiring welfare recipients. The survey was predicated on the idea that if states have a better understanding of employers' attitudes and requirements, they will be better able to design successful approaches to moving people into jobs and helping them stay there.
The survey included 500 businesses at the establishment level (e.g., individual stores, plants, or offices) in industries likely to have higher-than-average numbers of entry-level workers. The ESRI sample consists mostly of small employers with fewer than 50 workers. In order to gain insight into any potential differences in attitudes among establishments of different sizes, however, we oversampled those with 100 or more employees.
We conducted an additional 200 interviews-100 each in Los Angeles and Milwaukee-to see how these two cities might differ from national responses. Both of these cities have large welfare populations. Milwaukee is considered a national leader in innovative welfare-to-work initiatives, while Los Angeles is a large urban area with a diverse population that includes many immigrants.
Prior to undertaking the large national survey, we conducted a small exploratory telephone survey of 25 employers. Their responses, emerging from in-depth discussions, were very similar to the findings in the national sample. (author abstract)