Jobs First: Final Report on Connecticut’s Welfare Reform Initiative

Publication Date: February 15, 2002


Since its launch in 1996, Connecticut’s Jobs First program has attracted national attention because it includes all the key elements of the 1990s welfare reforms: time limits, financial work incentives, and work requirements. Specifically, Jobs First limits families to 21 cumulative months of cash assistance unless they receive an exemption or extension. It includes an unusually generous financial work incentive that allows employed recipients to retain their full welfare grant as long as they earn less than the federal poverty level. And it requires recipients to work or to participate in employment services designed to help them find jobs quickly.

Jobs First is a focus of policymaker interest, too, as one of the first programs of its kind to be subject to a rigorous, large-scale evaluation. MDRC studied Jobs First’s effects under a contract with the Connecticut Department of Social Services. Nearly 5,000 single-parent welfare applicants and recipients in Manchester and New Haven were assigned, at random, to Jobs First or to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) group, which was subject to the prior welfare rules. Jobs First’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over a four-year period. (Connecticut modified the Jobs First program after the period studied in this evaluation.)

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