Teaching Self-Sufficiency: An Impact and Benefit-Cost Analysis of a Home Visitation and Life Skills Education Program Findings from the Rural Welfare-to-Work Strategies Demonstration Evaluation

Publication Date: September 10, 2008


The Rural Welfare-to-Work (WtW) Strategies Demonstration Evaluation rigorously assessed the effectiveness of innovative programs for the rural poor. This final report presents 30-month impact and benefit-cost analysis findings for Building Nebraska Families (BNF), an intensive home visitation and life skills education program for hard-to-employ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) clients in rural Nebraska. The findings point to the effectiveness of BNF in increasing employment and earnings and reducing poverty among a subgroup of very hard-to-employ (“more disadvantaged”) TANF clients who faced substantial obstacles and skill deficiencies.

BNF took an indirect approach to helping low-income people move from welfare to work and self-sufficiency. Offered in addition to Nebraska’s regular TANF program, BNF provided individualized education, mentoring, and service coordination support with the goal of improving TANF clients’ basic life skills, family functioning, and overall well-being. During interactive, home-based teaching sessions, master’s-level educators used research-based curricula to enhance clients’ life skills and family management practices. Low caseloads of between 12 and 18 clients allowed for intensive, individualized services.

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. (MPR) and its subcontractor, Decision Information Resources, Inc., conducted the evaluation with funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Using a random assignment experiment, people eligible for limited program slots were assigned to a program group (which was offered BNF) or a control group (which was not offered BNF, but which could access all other available services). Given the use of random assignment, the evaluation’s key findings—highlighted below—provide rigorous evidence of BNF’s effectiveness.

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