Bonuses Help Keep Teens on Welfare In School, Study of Ohio Program Finds

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Financial bonuses and penalties help persuade teenagers on welfare to stay in school, get jobs, and shun public assistance after they graduate, a new study of an Ohio program shows. However, monetary incentives aren't enough to lure back teenagers who have dropped out of school.

In the current debate over federal welfare reform, President Clinton and many Republican leaders in Congress have embraced the idea of allowing states to offer incentives to young parents to complete high school.

Several states, including Ohio, have devised programs offering adolescent parents financial carrots to stay in school.

Ohio's Learning, Earning, and Parenting program, or LEAP, offers young parents on welfare an additional $62 each month if they continue to go to school. If the teenagers have two unexcused absences a month or drop out, their welfare payment--which averaged $274 a month--would decrease by $62 instead.

The study by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., a New York City-based research company, is the fourth in a series of reports evaluating the LEAP program's effectiveness in Ohio.

A previous study, which focused on teenagers in Cleveland, found that those who were in school when they enrolled in the LEAP program were more likely to earn a diploma than those who were offered a financial bonus to return to school after dropping out. (See Education Week, Sept. 28, 1994.)

Graduation and Work

The new study, which tracked 914 teenage parents in seven counties for three years, found that 46 percent of the teenagers in the LEAP program had graduated from high school or earned the General Educational Development certificate--20 percentage points higher than for the control group of teenage welfare recipients who were attending school but not in the program.

The study also found that teenagers in the LEAP program were more likely than welfare recipients not in the program to have been employed after graduation. And fewer teenagers in the program remained on welfare after they graduated than those who did not participate.

LEAP seemed to have a negligible effect on the employment prospects of those who were out of school when they enrolled, however. About 26 percent of the teenage welfare recipients who were dropouts when they enrolled in LEAP reported ever having a job, the same number as those who didn't enlist in the program.

Despite this, David Long, the report's lead researcher, said the study demonstrates that financial incentives can increase high school graduation rates and spur self-sufficiency among teenage parents. "There are very few things that have worked for this group, and here is solid scientific evidence and that's encouraging," he said.

For More Information:

Copies of "Three-Year Impacts of Ohio's Welfare Initiative To Improve School Attendance Among Teenage Parents" are available for $15 each from the Manpower Demonstration Research Corp., 3 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016.

Vol. 15, Issue 33

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