Review of Economics of the Household

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 133–158

The potential of a couples approach to employment assistance: results of a nonexperimental evaluation

Article

Abstract

We present findings from a nonexperimental evaluation of an employment program in which both partners in young, low-income, primarily African-American couples simultaneously participated. Mothers participating in the couples program had larger immediate gains in employment and earnings and decreases in TANF receipt following their exit from the program relative to mothers who received employment assistance as individuals. Fathers showed similar although weaker results. These immediate benefits appeared to be driven by higher rates of program completion among couples’ participants. Couples in which both partners completed the program experienced the largest quarterly earnings gains, and couples with greater earnings’ gains were more likely to still be together one year after the program ended. Mothers’ earnings gains eroded in the two years following program completion and many reported new pregnancies and problems with child care. We suggest directions for future programs and encourage future studies to consider the range of mechanisms associated with a couples focus, including potential motivational benefits and unintended consequences.

Keywords

Employment assistance Low-income youth Couples Parents 

JEL Classification

J24 J22 J12 

References

  1. Ahituv, A., & Lerman, R. I. (2007). How do marital status, work effort, and wage rates interact? Demography, 44(3), 623–647. doi:10.1353/dem.2007.0021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bardasi, E., & Taylor, M. (2008). Marriage and wages: A test of the specialization hypothesis. Economics, 75, 569–591.Google Scholar
  3. Becker, G. (1973). A theory of marriage: Part I. The Journal of Political Economy, 81, 813–846. doi:10.1086/260084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benham, L. (1974). Benefits of women’s education within marriage. The Journal of Political Economy, 82, S57–S71. doi:10.1086/260291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Black, D. R., Gleser, L. J., & Kooyers, K. J. (1990). A meta-analytic evaluation of couples weight-loss programs. Health Psychology, 9(3), 330–347. doi:10.1037/0278-6133.9.3.330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bzostek, S. H., Carlson, M. J., & McLanahan, S. S. (2006). Does mother know best? A comparison of biological and social fathers after a nonmarital birth. Center for Research on Child Wellbeing WP06-27-FF. http://crcw.princeton.edu/workingpapers/WP06-27-FF.pdf.
  7. Chun, H., & Lee, I. (2001). Why do married men earn more: Productivity or marriage selection? Economic Inquiry, 39, 307–319. doi:10.1093/ei/39.2.307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dion, M. R. (2005). Healthy marriage programs: Learning what works. The Future of Children, 15(2), 139–156. doi:10.1353/foc.2005.0016.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dion, M. R., Avellar, S. A., Zaveri, H. H., & Hershey, A. M. (2006). Implementing healthy marriage programs for unmarried couples with children: Early lessons from the building strong families project. Washington, DC: Mathematic Policy Research Inc.Google Scholar
  10. Dyke, A., Heinrich, C. J., Mueser, P., & Troske, K. (2006). The effects of welfare-to-work program activities on labor market outcomes. Journal of Labor Economics, 24(3), 567–608. doi:10.1086/504642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Goddard, H. W., & Olsen, C. S. (2004). Cooperative extension initiatives in marriage and couples education. Family Relations, 53, 433–439. doi:10.1111/j.0197-6664.2004.00051.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gorin, A. A., Le Grange, D., & Stone, A. A. (2003). Effectiveness of spouse involvement in cognitive behavioral therapy for binge eating disorder. The International Journal of Eating Disorders, 33(4), 421–433. doi:10.1002/eat.10152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenberg, D. H., Michalopoulos, C., & Robins, P. K. (2003). A meta-analysis of government-sponsored training programs. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 57(1), 31–53. doi:10.2307/3590980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grossbard-Shechtman, S. (1993). On the economics of marriage: A theory of marriage, labor, and divorce. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  15. Grossbard-Shechtman, S., Izraeli, D. N., & Neuman, S. (1994). When do spouses support a career? A human capital analysis of Israeli managers and their spouses. Journal of Socio-Economics, 23, 149–167. doi:10.1016/1053-5357(94)90025-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Heckman, J., Ichimura, H., Smith, J., & Todd, P. (1998). Characterizing selection bias using experimental data. Econometrica, 66(5), 1017–1098. doi:10.2307/2999630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heinrich, C. J., Mueser, P., & Troske, K. (2008). Workforce investment act non-experimental net impact evaluation. Final report to U.S. Department of Labor, December.Google Scholar
  18. Hersch, J. (2009). Home production and wages: Evidence from the American time use survey. Review of Economics of the Household. doi:10.1007/s11150-009-9051-z.
  19. Hersch, J., & Stratton, L. S. (2000). Household specialization and the male marriage wage premium. Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 54, 78–94. doi:10.2307/2696033.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hotz, V. J., Imbens, G. W., & Klerman, J. A. (2006). Evaluating the differential effects of alternative welfare-to-work training components: A reanalysis of the California GAIN program. Journal of Labor Economics, 24, 521–566. doi:10.1086/505050.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hynes, K., & Clarkberg, M. (2005). Women’s employment patterns during early parenthood: A group-based trajectory analysis. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 67, 222–239. doi:10.1111/j.0022-2445.2005.00017.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jepsen, L. K. (2005). The relationship between wife’s education and husband’s earnings: Evidence from 1960 to 2000. Review of Economics of the Household, 3, 197–214. doi:10.1007/s11150-005-0710-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Korenman, S., & Neumark, D. (1991). Does marriage really make men more productive. The Journal of Human Resources, 26, 282–307. doi:10.2307/145924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. LaLonde, R. J. (1995). The promise of public sector-sponsored training programs. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 9(2), 149–168.Google Scholar
  25. Lerman, R., Acs, G., & Bir, A. (2007). An economic framework, selected proposal for demonstrations aimed at strengthening marriage, employment, family functioning outcomes. Report prepared for the Administration for Children, Families, U.S. Department of Health, Human Services. Lincoln, A.E. (2008). Gender, productivity, and the marital wage premium. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 70, 806–814.Google Scholar
  26. Lundgren, L., & Rankin, B. (1998). What matters more: The job training program or the background of the participant? Evaluation and Program Planning, 21, 111–120. doi:10.1016/S0149-7189(97)00049-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mueser, P. R., Troske, K. R., & Gorislavsky, A. (2007). Using state administrative data to measure program performance. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 89(4), 761–783. doi:10.1162/rest.89.4.761.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. National Healthy Marriage Resource Center. (2008). Marriage, employment and family economic security: Research, program and policy implications. Conference held at the Johnson Foundation Wingspread Conference Center, June 9–11, 2008.Google Scholar
  29. Ooms, T., Bouchet, S., & Parke, M. (2004). Beyond marriage licenses: Efforts in states to strengthen marriage and two-parent families. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy.Google Scholar
  30. Sheran, M. (2007). The career and family choices of women: A dynamic analysis of labor force participation, schooling, marriage and fertility decisions. Review of Economic Dynamics, 10, 367–399. doi:10.1016/j.red.2006.11.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Stanley, S. M., Markman, H. J., & Jenkins, N. H. (2003). Marriage education and government policy: Helping couples who choose marriage achieve success. Denver, CO: University of Denver.Google Scholar
  32. Stover, J. (1998). Revising the proximate determinants of fertility framework: What have we learned in the past 20 years? Studies in Family Planning, 29(3), 255–267. doi:10.2307/172272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2004). Consumer price index––all urban consumers (U.S. City Average, All Items). Retrieved July 20, 2004, from http://data.bls.gov/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet.
  34. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2008). Healthy marriage initiative. Retrieved January 14, 2008, from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage/.
  35. Wooldridge, J. M. (2002). Econometric analysis of cross section and panel data. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and Institute of Government and Public AffairsUniversity of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.La Follette School of Public Affairs and Institute for Research on PovertyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations