Program

Aug 14, 2008

OVERVIEW

The
Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) is a program aimed at reducing the number of
families who are reliant on welfare. The program offers income supplements to
low-income Canadian parents if they are able to work full-time (i.e., at least
30 hours per week) and leave the welfare program. Evaluations of SSP have found
that it increases parental employment and income. Likewise, the program has
been found to increase school achievement and structured activity involvement
in middle childhood. Small negative impacts were found for some adolescent
behaviors.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population: Welfare recipients and
their children

SSP was designed to get parents off welfare, thereby
improving their self-sufficiency. The program accomplishes this by offering
monetary incentives in the form of earnings supplements if parents work
full-time and leave the welfare program. The earnings supplement is calculated
using “earnings benchmarks” from the surrounding community as well as
participant’s actual earnings.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

STUDY 1: Morris, P. &
Michalopoulos, C. (2000). The Self-Sufficiency Project at 36 months: Effects
on children of a program that increased parental employment and income.
Ottawa, Ontario:
Social Research and Development Corporation.

Evaluated population: The sample
population consisted of 5,078 children ages 3 to 18 in two Canadian cities, one
in New Brunswick and one in British Columbia. Children in the sample
were living with single parents, who were long-term welfare recipients. The
sample was divided into three cohorts by age (3-5, 6-11, and 12-18) in order to
examine any differential effects the treatment had on these age groups.

Approach: Families were randomly assigned to either
the SSP treatment group or a control group. The 2,880 families in the treatment
group were offered an income supplement for up to three years if they agreed to
work full-time (i.e., at least 30 hours per week) and leave welfare. The 2,849
families in the control group received notification that they were ineligible
for SSP benefits. Families in the control group, however, maintained
eligibility for Canadian “Income Assistance,” the Canadian welfare program.

Results:

Child Outcomes

Treatment group children ages 3-5 at baseline did not
improve relative to control group children on tests of cognitive performance or
in parental reports of health and behavior.

Treatment group children ages 6-11 at baseline scored higher
on math tests and improved on parental reports of academic achievement and
health compared with control group children. Children in this age group were
also more likely to participate in after school activities.

Treatment group children ages 12-18 self-reported substance
abuse and minor delinquent activities more frequently than control group
children. Additionally, treatment group children in this age cohort were more
likely to have a parent report below average school performance at the 3-year
follow-up.

The authors note that effect sizes for significant outcomes
were small. Also, the 12-18 years age cohort experienced higher attrition rates
than either other cohort. This could have possibly masked effects of the
treatment or identified false effects.

STUDY 2: Michalopoulos, C., Tattrie, D., Miller, C.,
Robins, P.K., Morris, P. Gyarmati, D., Redcross, C., Foley, K., & Ford, R.
(2002). Making work pay: Final report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for
Long-Term Welfare Recipients.
Ottawa,
Ontario: Social Research and
Development Corporation.

Evaluated population: The original study
included nearly 6,000 single-parent, long-term welfare recipients living in one
of two Canadian cities, one in New Brunswick and one in British Columbia. This study follows the
4,852 parents who completed a follow-up survey 54-months later (participant
outcomes) and their children (child outcomes).

Approach: Between 1992 and 1995, families were
randomly assigned to either the SSP treatment group, the SSP Plus treatment
group, or a control group. The 2,880 families in the SSP treatment group were
offered an income supplement for up to three years, if they worked at least 30
hours per week and started working during the first year. The 239 families in
the SSP Plus group, received the same option, but were also offered the use of
job services, such as employment plans, job clubs, job coaching, and resume
workshops. Lastly, the 2,849 families in the control group received
notification that they were ineligible for SSP benefits. Families in the
control group, however, maintained eligibility for Canadian “Income
Assistance,” the Canadian welfare program.

Results:

Supplement Use

Thirty-six percent of the SSP treatment group received at
least one financial supplement. The SSP Plus group was even more likely to take
up the supplement, and 53 percent received at least one payment. On average,
SSP group members (both regular and Plus) received 22 months of payments for a
total of $18,000 over the three years.

Parental Employment:

By the end of the program’s first year, SSP participants
(both regular and Plus) were twice as likely as control group members to be
employed full-time. By the program’s fifth year, however, control group members
had caught up in employment. The authors note that the incentive to work may
have declined after the third year because participants were no longer eligible
for supplements. Although full-time employment was higher among SSP Plus
participants during the fourth year of programming, no significant employment
differences were found between SSP Plus and regular SSP participants in other
years.

Parental Earnings, Income, and Poverty Status:

On average, SSP participants (both regular and Plus) earned
almost $3,400 more than the control group over a five-year period. The earnings
gap between SSP participants and control group members decreased over time,
however, and by the fifth year, control group members had caught up in
earnings.

On average, SSP participants (both regular and Plus) had
substantially higher family incomes than control group families at the12- and
30-month follow-ups ($199 more and $148 more per month, respectively). SSP
participants were also more likely to have an income above the Canadian
low-income level, which is over one-and-a-half times the US poverty
level). By the fifth and sixth years these impacts had disappeared. Over the
five-year follow-up period, however, SSP participants received over $6,000 more
in combined income, on average, than control group members. SSP Plus
participants had higher cumulative earnings and higher participant incomes at
the four-year follow-up, but did not have higher total family incomes.

Child Outcomes:

Treatment group children ages 1-2 at baseline did not
improve relative to control group children on tests of cognitive performance or
in parental reports of health and behavior.

Treatment group children ages 3-4 at baseline scored higher
in math at the 3-year follow up and had higher parental reports of
above-average school performance at the 54-month follow-up compared with
control group children. No impacts were found in parental reports of health and
behavior.

Treatment group children ages 13-15 at baseline were more
likely to engage in minor delinquent activities and have a parent report below
average school performance at the 3-year follow-up. The 54-month follow-up did
not measure these outcomes; however, at this time, the treatment and control
groups did not differ in terms of high school drop out status or college
attendance.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Michalopoulos, C., Tattrie, D., Miller, C., Robins, P.K.,
Morris, P. Gyarmati, D., Redcross, C., Foley, K., & Ford, R. (2002). Making
work pay: Final report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Long-Term Welfare
Recipients.
Ottawa, Ontario: Social Research and Development
Corporation.Available at: <a
href=”http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/cs/sp/sdc/pkrf/publications/research/2002-002340/page00.shtml”>http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/en/cs/sp/sdc/pkrf/publications/research/2002-002340/page00.shtml

Morris, P. & Kalil, A. (2006). Out-of-school time use
during middle childhood in a low-income sample. In A.C. Huston & M.N. Ripke
(Eds.), Developmental contexts in middle childhood (pp. 237 – 259). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Morris, P. & Michalopoulos, C. (2000). The
Self-Sufficiency Project at 36 months: Effects on children of a program that
increased parental employment and income.
Ottawa, Ontario: Social Research
and Development Corporation.

KEYWORDS: Employment, Income, Academic Achievement,
School Engagement, Middle School, Adolescence (12-18), Behavioral Problems,
Welfare, Public Assistance, Early Childhood (0-5), Middle Childhood
(6-11), Children, Adolescent, Youth, Self Sufficiency, Life Skills Development,
Community Campaign, Parent/Family Component, Education, Cognitive
Development, Social/Emotional Health and Development, Physical Health,
Substance Abuse, Delinquency.

Program information last updated 8/14/08.