Evaluating Comprehensive State Welfare Reform

The Wisconsin Works Program

Edited by Burt S. Barnow, Thomas Kaplan, and Robert A. Moffitt

Subjects: Public Finance
Imprint: Distribution Partners
Paperback : 9780914341727, 344 pages, March 2000

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Table of contents


Richard P. Nathan

Burt S. Barnow, Thomas Kaplan, and Robert A. Moffitt

I. Overview and Outcomes

1. The Next Generation of Welfare Reforms: An Assessment of the Evaluation Challenge
Thomas Corbett

2. Outcomes of Interest, Evaluation, Constituencies, and the Necessary Trade-Offs
Maria Cancian and Barbara Wolfe

II. General Evaluation Strategies

3. Controlled Experiments in Evaluating the New Welfare Programs
Glen G. Cain

4. Alernative Designs for Evaluating National Welfare Reform
Robert Haveman

III. The Wisconsin Works Program
A. A Comprehensive Design

5. Toward a Basic Impact Evaluation of the Wisconsin Works Program
Thomas Kaplan and Daniel R. Meyer

B. Process and Data Issues

6. Process Analysis--The Neglected Stepchild of Evaluations: The Wisconsin Works W-2 Case Study
Elisabeth Boehnen and Thomas Corbett

7. Process Evaluation of W-2: What It Is, Why It Is Useful, and How to do It
Karen C. Holden and Arthur Reynolds

8. Monitoring Income for Social and Economic Development
Martin H. David

C. Specific Outcomes

9. Evaluating the Impacts of W-2 on Family Structure and Maternal and Child Health
Gary Sandefur and Molly Martin

10. Evaluation of Child Care Services Under the Wisconsin Works Program (W-2)
Karen Fox Folk and Marianne Bloch

11. Evaluating the Child Support Reforms in the Wisconsin Works Program
Daniel R. Meyer, Maria Cancian, and Emma Caspar

12. Potential Effects of (W-2) on Families Who Have Very Young Children with Disabilities and Special Health Care Needs
George Jesien, Caroline Hoffman, and Thomas Kaplan

13. Welfare Reform and Child Welfare Servcies: Issues of Concern and Potential Evaluation Strategies
Mark E. Courtney


Discusses issues involved in evaluating the new reforms, and applies those issues to the evaluation of welfare reform in Wisconsin.


The recent delegation of authority for welfare programs from the federal government to the states has stimulated increasingly complex and comprehensive reforms which seek in part to generate social messages that discourage dependency on public assistance, promote work, and influence family formation decisions. The message-sending emphasis of the new reforms and their comprehensiveness often makes them hard to evaluate through conventional experimental designs using treatment and control groups. This book offers a lucid discussion of issues involved in evaluating the new reforms, and applies those issues to the evaluation of welfare reform in one state, Wisconsin, which offers a leading example of comprehensive welfare reform.

The book opens with an overview of the different types of program evaluation and summarizes clearly the basic issues that are involved in their conduct. A discussion of general evaluation strategies for the new welfare reforms, such as the selection and use of counterfactuals, is followed by consideration of both implementation and impact evaluations of the Wisconsin program. The final section considers the evaluation of specific impacts of the Wisconsin program on economic well-being, family structure, child care services, child support, child welfare, and children with disabilities.

Burt S. Barnow is interim associate director for research at the Institute for Policy Studies, Johns Hopkins University. Thomas Kaplan is a senior scientist at the Institute for Research on Poverty, University of Wisconsin at Madison. Robert A. Moffitt is a professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University.