Cost Effectiveness of Virginia’s TANF-VIEW Program

Author: Jeff Price
November 10, 2016

Dr. Jeff Price, Director of Research and Planning, Virginia Department of Social Services.

Researchers from the VCU Wilder School of Government recently completed a study for VDSS of the cost effectiveness of the TANF-Funded Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW) program using the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS). 

The primary objective of the VIEW program is to decrease participants’ dependence on public assistance by connecting them to work.  As a requirement for receiving TANF benefits, participants are enrolled in one or more training and work related activities meant to move them toward employment and self-sufficiency.  The purpose of the study was to assess the cost effectiveness of the services provided to VIEW participants. What differentiates this study from previous evaluations of VIEW is the ability to link administrative data from four of the Commonwealth’s public agencies through the Virginia Longitudinal Data System (VLDS).

The study used return on investment analysis and regression analysis to address questions related to outcomes for TANF-VIEW enrollees after exiting the program, and the cost effectiveness of different types of employment services provided through the program.  Key questions address whether there was an earnings impact, an employment impact, and/or a return on investment as a result of participation in VIEW.

The study took into account the entry and exit date of each client, their demographics, status before and after participation in the program, and their wages before and after participation in the program.  Benefits were defined as savings to the TANF program, savings to the SNAP program, and estimated taxes paid by people employed during or after participation in the program.  Costs included the cost of services provided to participants while in the program. 

Key Findings:

  • The VIEW program has a positive, albeit small, influence on post-program earnings and employment.
  • Participation in the program yields a positive return on investment within five years after an individual leaves the program.
  • Participant groups who have traditionally been vulnerable in the labor market (blacks, Hispanics, people with physical or mental disabilities, people whose first language is not English) have less favorable outcomes from VIEW than their counterparts.
  • Obtaining a recognized degree has a positive influence on net earnings, the probability of employment after leaving the program, and on overall ROI. 
  • Greater time spent in the program does not translate into better outcomes. It has a negative and consistent effect on earnings and the probability of employment.
  • Relatively few VIEW participants are able to forego TANF and SNAP benefits within a year following exit from the program. 

 

 

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