Evaluation of the Welfare to Work Voucher Program: Report to Congress
The Welfare to Work Voucher (WtWV) program was initiated in Fiscal Year 1999 when Congress appropriated $283 million for tenant-based housing vouchers to help families make the transition from welfare to work. This appropriation (P.L. 105-276) funded 50,000 new vouchers. The assistance was awarded initially to 129 local and state housing agencies that presented reasonable plans for helping eligible families find available housing and for coordinating these efforts with existing welfare reform and welfare-to-work efforts.
This research offers powerful new evidence concerning the effects of tenant-based rental assistance on self-sufficiency. The experimental design enables one to draw rigorous inferences about the effects of housing vouchers on family well being, independent of all other factors affecting the lives of program participants. Random assignment serves to assure that the treatment and control groups are well matched on both observed and unobserved characteristics at the time of their entry into the study. It thus establishes the strongest possible foundation for understanding whether housing vouchers can assist welfare families in achieving greater financial independence or otherwise improving their lives.
This study is especially timely in light of federal and state changes in welfare policies over the past decade, reducing the numbers of families eligible for public assistance and limiting the time period over which they can receive benefits. Housing vouchers may help low-income families become employed and may also help them meet financial needs as they transition from welfare.
The current report presents interim findings as to the impact of the WtWV program on the quality of a family’s residential location, on employment and earnings, and on receipt of public assistance. The analysis, based on a six-site research sample of 8,732 families, makes use of outcome measures derived from tract-level Census data and person-level administrative data. The impact estimates in this report encompass a follow-up period that is five quarters in duration for all sites, and longer for some sites, reflecting the timing of random assignment and the availability of outcome measures.