Family Transition Program
Last registered on March 14, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Family Transition Program
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002069
Initial registration date
March 14, 2017
Last updated
March 14, 2017 7:25 PM EDT
Location(s)
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
MDRC
Other Primary Investigator(s)
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
1994-05-01
End date
2000-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Launched in 1994, Florida’s pilot Family Transition Program (FTP) was the first welfare reform initiative in which some families reached a time limit on their welfare eligibility and had their benefits canceled. Today, almost all states have welfare time limits (and there is a 60-month lifetime limit on federally funded assistance), although relatively few families have yet reached those limits.

FTP, which operated in Escambia County (including Pensacola) until 1999, limited most families to 24 months of cash welfare assistance in any 60-month period (the least job-ready were limited to 36 months in any 72-month period) and provided a wide array of services and incentives to help welfare recipients find work. Florida’s statewide welfare program incorporates many of the pilot program’s features but differs from it in key ways; thus, the evaluation of FTP did not assess the statewide program.

MDRC evaluated FTP under a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Several thousand welfare applicants and recipients (mostly single mothers) were assigned, at random, to FTP or to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) group, which was subject to the prior welfare rules. FTP’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over a four-year period.

Key Findings
-- Reflecting a sharp decline in Florida’s overall welfare caseload, most families in the AFDC group left welfare during the study period. Nevertheless, owing to its time limit, FTP substantially reduced long-term welfare receipt: Only 6 percent of families in the FTP group received welfare for more than 36 months compared with 17 percent in the AFDC group.
-- Relative to families in the AFDC group, FTP families gained more in earnings than they lost in welfare payments, resulting in a modestly higher average income for the FTP group. However, these gains in earnings and income came in the middle of the study period; by the end, the two groups were equally likely to be working and had about the same income.
-- Only 17 percent of families in the FTP group reached their time limit during the study period. Most of the others did not accumulate 24 or 36 months of benefit receipt (some received 24 or 36 months, but were granted medical exemptions that stopped their time-limit clocks). Somewhat less than half of those who reached their time limit worked steadily in the subsequent 18 months, and many relied heavily on family, friends, Food Stamps, and housing assistance for support. Most of these families struggled financially, but did not appear to be worse off than many other families who left welfare for other reasons.
-- FTP had few impacts, positive or negative, on the well-being of elementary-school-aged children. Among adolescents, however, children in the FTP group performed somewhat worse than their AFDC counterparts on a couple of measures of school performance.

The final results from the FTP evaluation show that, at least under certain circumstances, time limits can be implemented without having widespread, severe consequences for families. Nevertheless, caution is in order: FTP operated in a strong local and national labor market, had plentiful resources for staff and services, and imposed no lifetime limit on welfare receipt. Where these conditions do not hold, the consequences of time limits might differ from those found in this evaluation.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Bloom, Dan. 2017. "Family Transition Program." AEA RCT Registry. March 14. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2069-1.0.
Former Citation
Bloom, Dan. 2017. "Family Transition Program." AEA RCT Registry. March 14. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2069/history/15008.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
The Family Transition Program (FTP) limited most families to 24 months of cash welfare assistance in any 60-month period (the least job-ready were limited to 36 months in any 72-month period). As a work incentive, the first $200 plus one-half of any remaining earned income was disregarded (that is, not counted) in calculating a family’s monthly grant. In addition to the enhanced disregard, FTP allowed families to accumulate more assets and to own more valuable cars (relative to AFDC rules) without losing eligibility for welfare. Finally, FTP offered subsidized transitional child care for two years after participants left welfare for work, as opposed to the one year provided under prior rules.

In addition, FTP aimed to provide a rich array of services and supports. Most notably, participants received intensive case management provided by workers with very small caseloads, and the program provided enhanced training, education, and job placement services. Finally, FTP sought to increase participants’ access to a range of other benefits, including social and health services, child care, transportation, and other support services by increasing funding for such services and bringing many of them under one roof in the program offices.

The program also carried parental responsibility mandates. Under FTP, parents with school-age children were required to ensure that their children were attending school regularly and to speak with their children’s teachers at least once each grading period. New applicants for welfare who had preschool children were required to provide proof that their children had begun to receive the standard series of immunizations.
Intervention Start Date
1994-05-01
Intervention End Date
1999-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Employment, earnings, income, welfare receipt, family functioning, child well-being
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Welfare applicants and recipients who met the criteria for FTP were assigned, at random, to one of two groups:
-- The FTP group, whose members were eligible for FTP’s services and subject to its mandates, including the time limit; or
-- The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) group, whose members were subject to the welfare rules that existed before FTP was implemented — which included, for many recipients, a requirement to participate in employment-related activities through Project Independence, Florida’s pre-existing welfare-to-work program. MDRC tracked the two groups during a follow-up period lasting four years and compared them on a number of measures, including their employment and welfare receipt patterns, family income, and others. Although this methodology has some limitations — for example, it cannot assess whether FTP affected the number of people who applied for welfare in the first place — random assignment is generally seen as the most reliable way to determine what difference, if any, a program makes.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was done in MDRC's office using a computer.
Randomization Unit
individual
Was the treatment clustered?
No
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
2,815 individuals
Sample size: planned number of observations
2,815 individuals
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
1,405 FTP (treatment), 1,410 ACDF (control)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
1,729 individuals in 4-year survey sample
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
1,729 individuals in 4-year survey sample
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
860 individuals FTP (treatment), 869 individuals AFDC (control)
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Yes
Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Launched in 1994, Florida’s pilot Family Transition Program (FTP) was the first welfare reform initiative in which some families reached a time limit on their welfare eligibility and had their benefits canceled. Today, almost all states have welfare time limits (and there is a 60-month lifetime limit on federally funded assistance), although relatively few families have yet reached those limits.

FTP, which operated in Escambia County (including Pensacola) until 1999, limited most families to 24 months of cash welfare assistance in any 60-month period (the least job-ready were limited to 36 months in any 72-month period) and provided a wide array of services and incentives to help welfare recipients find work. Florida’s statewide welfare program incorporates many of the pilot program’s features but differs from it in key ways; thus, the evaluation of FTP did not assess the statewide program.

MDRC evaluated FTP under a contract with the Florida Department of Children and Families. Several thousand welfare applicants and recipients (mostly single mothers) were assigned, at random, to FTP or to the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) group, which was subject to the prior welfare rules. FTP’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over a four-year period.

Key Findings
•Reflecting a sharp decline in Florida’s overall welfare caseload, most families in the AFDC group left welfare during the study period. Nevertheless, owing to its time limit, FTP substantially reduced long-term welfare receipt: Only 6 percent of families in the FTP group received welfare for more than 36 months compared with 17 percent in the AFDC group.
•Relative to families in the AFDC group, FTP families gained more in earnings than they lost in welfare payments, resulting in a modestly higher average income for the FTP group. However, these gains in earnings and income came in the middle of the study period; by the end, the two groups were equally likely to be working and had about the same income.
•Only 17 percent of families in the FTP group reached their time limit during the study period. Most of the others did not accumulate 24 or 36 months of benefit receipt (some received 24 or 36 months, but were granted medical exemptions that stopped their time-limit clocks). Somewhat less than half of those who reached their time limit worked steadily in the subsequent 18 months, and many relied heavily on family, friends, Food Stamps, and housing assistance for support. Most of these families struggled financially, but did not appear to be worse off than many other families who left welfare for other reasons.
•FTP had few impacts, positive or negative, on the well-being of elementary-school-aged children. Among adolescents, however, children in the FTP group performed somewhat worse than their AFDC counterparts on a couple of measures of school performance.

The final results from the FTP evaluation show that, at least under certain circumstances, time limits can be implemented without having widespread, severe consequences for families. Nevertheless, caution is in order: FTP operated in a strong local and national labor market, had plentiful resources for staff and services, and imposed no lifetime limit on welfare receipt. Where these conditions do not hold, the consequences of time limits might differ from those found in this evaluation.
Citation
Bloom, Dan, James J. Kemple, Pamela Morris, Susan Scrivener, Nandita Verma, and Richard Hendra. 2000. The Family Transition Program: Final Results of Florida’s Initial Time-Limited Welfare Program. New York: MDRC.