The research conducted for this report was undertaken as a result of recommendations made by the Commission for Public Social Services regarding the need for systematic information on welfare sanctions and the sanctioned population in the County of Los Angeles. The proportion of sanctioned welfare participants in the County of Los Angeles over the last two years has been comparable to the sanction rate for the State of California as a whole. Nevertheless, community advocates and policymakers alike have expressed interest in lowering the sanction rate in the County of Los Angeles and enhancing participants’ capacity to comply with Welfare-to-Work requirements. In addition, there is ongoing interest in the extent to which sanctions actually encourage compliance. These issues can only be addressed with rigorous research of the kind that was carried out in preparing this report.
Several different sources of data and distinct but complementary methods of social research were used to generate this study’s findings. Statistical techniques were employed to analyze administrative records and a staff survey. In addition, focus group interviews were conducted and analyzed for the purpose of obtaining qualitative data on how perceptions of the sanctions process shape the actions taken by both Welfare-to-Work participants and caseworkers. The use of qualitative and quantitative methods in concert with each other enables this report to provide well-rounded information on sanctions, sanctioned participants, and the employees who manage their cases.
This study covers the period from April 2002 to February 2004. After describing the sanctions policy environment in the County of Los Angeles, this report goes on to identify the County’s sanctioned population, analyze the County’s sanction rates, and look at the amount of time it takes participants to become sanctioned. This report also examines the factors that increase and decrease the probability of both being sanctioned and making a return to compliance after a sanction has been issued. Focus group data reveals many of the challenges that both Welfare-to-Work participants and caseworkers face in the course of engaging with sanctions policy, and staff survey data sheds light on how issues such as caseload size, work experience and the way in which sanction policy is implemented by the GAIN Service Workers affect the frequency of sanctions. The final chapter makes policy recommendations based on this report’s quantitative and qualitative findings. (author abstract)