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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Carlson, Deven; Haveman, Robert; Kaplan, Tom; Wolfe, Barbara
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2009

    The federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program provides eligible low-income families with an income-conditioned voucher that pays for a portion of rental costs in privately owned, affordable housing units. This paper extends prior research on the effectiveness of rental support programs in several ways. The analysis employs a unique longitudinal dataset created by combining administrative records maintained by the State of Wisconsin with census block group data. We use a propensity score matching approach coupled with difference-in-differences regression analysis to estimate the effect of housing voucher receipt on the employment and earnings of voucher recipients; we track these effects for five years following voucher receipt. Our results indicate that voucher receipt has a generally positive effect on employment, but a negative impact on earnings. The negative earnings effect is largest in the years following initial receipt of the rental voucher, and dissipates over time. We find that the pattern of recipient labor market responses to voucher receipt differs...

    The federal Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) Program provides eligible low-income families with an income-conditioned voucher that pays for a portion of rental costs in privately owned, affordable housing units. This paper extends prior research on the effectiveness of rental support programs in several ways. The analysis employs a unique longitudinal dataset created by combining administrative records maintained by the State of Wisconsin with census block group data. We use a propensity score matching approach coupled with difference-in-differences regression analysis to estimate the effect of housing voucher receipt on the employment and earnings of voucher recipients; we track these effects for five years following voucher receipt. Our results indicate that voucher receipt has a generally positive effect on employment, but a negative impact on earnings. The negative earnings effect is largest in the years following initial receipt of the rental voucher, and dissipates over time. We find that the pattern of recipient labor market responses to voucher receipt differs substantially among demographic subgroups. In addition to our overall results, we present sensitivity results involving alternative estimation methods, as well as distinctions between those who receive transitory voucher support and those who are long-term recipients. (author abstract)

    A journal article based on this working paper was published in 2012.

  • Individual Author: Duncan, Greg; Huston, Aletha; Weisner, Thomas
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2007

    During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor—people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. In Higher Ground, Greg Duncan, Aletha Huston, and Thomas Weisner provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies.

    New Hope was a social contract—not a welfare program—in which participants were required to work a minimum of 30 hours a week in order to be eligible for earnings supplements and health and child care subsidies. All participants had access to career counseling and temporary community service jobs. Drawing on...

    During the 1990s, growing demands to end chronic welfare dependency culminated in the 1996 federal “welfare-to-work” reforms. But regardless of welfare reform, the United States has always been home to a large population of working poor—people who remain poor even when they work and do not receive welfare. In a concentrated effort to address the problems of the working poor, a coalition of community activists and business leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, launched New Hope, an experimental program that boosted employment among the city’s poor while reducing poverty and improving children’s lives. In Higher Ground, Greg Duncan, Aletha Huston, and Thomas Weisner provide a compelling look at how New Hope can serve as a model for national anti-poverty policies.

    New Hope was a social contract—not a welfare program—in which participants were required to work a minimum of 30 hours a week in order to be eligible for earnings supplements and health and child care subsidies. All participants had access to career counseling and temporary community service jobs. Drawing on evidence from surveys, public records of employment and earnings, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic observation, Higher Ground tells the story of this ambitious three-year social experiment and evaluates how participants fared relative to a control group. The results were highly encouraging. Poverty rates declined among families that participated in the program. Employment and earnings increased among participants who were not initially working full-time, relative to their counterparts in a control group. For those who had faced just one significant barrier to employment (such as a lack of access to child care or a spotty employment history), these gains lasted years after the program ended. Increased income, combined with New Hope’s subsidies for child care and health care, brought marked improvements to the well-being and development of participants’ children. Enrollment in child care centers increased, and fewer medical needs went unmet. Children performed better in school and exhibited fewer behavioral problems, and gains were particularly dramatic for boys, who are at the greatest risk for poor academic performance and behavioral disorders.

    As America takes stock of the successes and shortcomings of the Clinton-era welfare reforms, the authors convincingly demonstrate why New Hope could be a model for state and national policies to assist the working poor. Evidence based and insightfully written, Higher Ground illuminates how policymakers can make work pay for families struggling to escape poverty. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: DeParle, Jason
    Reference Type: Book Chapter/Book
    Year: 2004

    In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces  their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

    With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why. (author abstract)

    In this definitive work, two-time Pulitzer finalist Jason DeParle cuts between the mean streets of Milwaukee and the corridors of Washington to produce a masterpiece of literary journalism. At the heart of the story are three cousins whose different lives follow similar trajectories. Leaving welfare, Angie puts her heart in her work. Jewell bets on an imprisoned man. Opal guards a tragic secret that threatens her kids and her life. DeParle traces  their family history back six generations to slavery and weaves poor people, politicians, reformers, and rogues into a spellbinding epic.

    With a vivid sense of humanity, DeParle demonstrates that although we live in a country where anyone can make it, generation after generation some families don’t. To read American Dream is to understand why. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Mead, Lawrence M.
    Reference Type: Journal Article
    Year: 2012

    How might work levels among low-income men be raised, as they were for welfare mothers in the 1990s? This study expands the relevant literature on both social policy and implementation. Low-skilled men owing child support and ex-offenders returning from prison are already supposed to work but often fail to do so. The reasons include both the recent fall in unskilled wages and the confusion of men’s lives. Existing work programs in child support and criminal justice appear promising, although evaluations are limited. A survey covering most states shows that half or more already have some men’s work programs, usually on a small scale. Field research in six states suggests the political and administrative factors that shape wider implementation of these programs. Work programs should preferably be mandatory, stress work over training, and be combined with improved wage subsidies. The federal government should provide more funding and evaluations. (author abstract)

    How might work levels among low-income men be raised, as they were for welfare mothers in the 1990s? This study expands the relevant literature on both social policy and implementation. Low-skilled men owing child support and ex-offenders returning from prison are already supposed to work but often fail to do so. The reasons include both the recent fall in unskilled wages and the confusion of men’s lives. Existing work programs in child support and criminal justice appear promising, although evaluations are limited. A survey covering most states shows that half or more already have some men’s work programs, usually on a small scale. Field research in six states suggests the political and administrative factors that shape wider implementation of these programs. Work programs should preferably be mandatory, stress work over training, and be combined with improved wage subsidies. The federal government should provide more funding and evaluations. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Roberts, Brandon; Price, Derek
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2012

    In 2007, the Joyce Foundation launched Shifting Gears, a state policy initiative designed to promote regional economic growth by improving the education and skills training of the workforce in six Midwestern states. These states—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin—were tasked to create more seamless pathways to postsecondary credentials and good jobs for lower-skilled adults. The initiative was developed in the wake of a particularly marked transition in the Midwest from largely industrial economies structured around manufacturing to more diversified economies that promised new growth and new jobs. CLASP played a key role in Shifting Gears as the managing intermediary of the overall initiative and the primary provider of technical assistance.

    A recently released evaluation report covering the first five years of the initiative discusses the progress these states have made to-date and outlines the activities that contributed most to their success. The report finds that four core activities were critical to the success of the Shifting Gears states:...

    In 2007, the Joyce Foundation launched Shifting Gears, a state policy initiative designed to promote regional economic growth by improving the education and skills training of the workforce in six Midwestern states. These states—Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin—were tasked to create more seamless pathways to postsecondary credentials and good jobs for lower-skilled adults. The initiative was developed in the wake of a particularly marked transition in the Midwest from largely industrial economies structured around manufacturing to more diversified economies that promised new growth and new jobs. CLASP played a key role in Shifting Gears as the managing intermediary of the overall initiative and the primary provider of technical assistance.

    A recently released evaluation report covering the first five years of the initiative discusses the progress these states have made to-date and outlines the activities that contributed most to their success. The report finds that four core activities were critical to the success of the Shifting Gears states:

    Strengthening alignment and collaboration across the adult education, workforce, and community and technical college systems;

    Achieving buy-in and commitment of senior state leadership to advance the chosen state strategy;

    Enacting changes to specific state policies and regulations affecting local programs and delivery, which provided an impetus for local champions to pursue the specified innovative strategy; and

    Engaging the field of local practitioners and administrators intentionally and repeatedly to create local champions.

     The report emphasized that the first five years of Shifting Gears were always intended to be foundational—setting the groundwork for longer-term success and scale. To that point, the core activities found critical to their success reflect a state focus on relationship building and policy change in these initial years, rather than taking new approaches to scale. Still, the evaluators found that four states achieved significant progress toward systemic change and together—due to the states’ efforts--reached about 4,000 low-skilled students, who may have otherwise been unable to access marketable postsecondary credentials.

    States are expected to continue on this positive trajectory. In fact, several are continuing to build upon their Shifting Gears efforts.

    Illinois is expanding its use of bridge programs developed under Shifting Gears through the Accelerating Opportunity initiative and is building bridge programs into manufacturing career pathways through a Workforce Innovation Fund grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    Minnesota has received funding from the Joyce Foundation to continue its work under the Shifting Gears initiative into 2013-14 and has recently been selected to participate in an initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education to integrate existing career-technical education pathways into broader state system reforms initiated under Shifting Gears.

    Wisconsin has also received funding from the Joyce Foundation for continued Shifting Gears work until 2013-14 and received a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to conduct activities that expand upon the foundation built through Shifting Gears.

    Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are participating in a CLASP-led project, the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, which is bringing together the expertise from leading career pathways states to identify criteria for high-quality career pathways systems and a set of shared performance metrics for measuring and managing their success. (author abstract)

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