A Helping Hand Goes a Long Way:
Long-Term Effects of Counselling and Support to Workfare Program Participants
There is a growing realization that in order to help low-income households achieve self-sufficiency it is necessary to address both economic disincentives to work as well as behavioral barriers that prevent the poor from finding and retaining employment. To explore this empirically, we study the long-run impacts of the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) Plus experiment, which randomly assigned chronic welfare recipients to receive temporary work subsidies and intensive employment support services. We examine whether this intervention lead to permanent changes in individuals’ socioeconomic trajectories. We link study participants to their federal tax records to follow them up to 20 years after random assignment. Compared to those receiving only the temporary work subsidies or no intervention, we find that the added support services of the SSP Plus program led to a large increase in full-time employment and an analogous decrease in the receipt of Social Assistance throughout the first decade post-intervention. We also find a permanent 20-27 percent increase in participants’ annual earnings over the 20-year period. We show evidence consistent with the retention of jobs that are of higher quality as an important pathway of these long-term effects. Taken together, the results indicate that the intensive support services offered through the program significantly transformed the lives of these individuals.
Philip Oreopoulos is Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California, at Berkeley and his M.A. from the University of British Columbia. He is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research and Research Fellow at the Canadian Institute For Advanced Research. He has held a previous visiting appointment at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is editor at the Journal of Labor Economics. Dr. Oreopoulos’ current work focuses on education policy, especially the application of behavioral economics to education and child development. He often examines this field by initiating and implementing large-scale field experiments, with the goal of producing convincing evidence for public policy decisions.