Canadian Self-Sufficiency Project

Updated: Feb 09, 2018
Evidence Rating:
Suggestive Tier

Highlights

  • Program:

    Earnings supplements for long-term welfare recipients who find full-time work and leave welfare.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    Three well-conducted randomized controlled trials (RCTs) carried out in Canada.

  • Key Findings:

    Sizable increases in employment, earnings, and family income, and reductions in poverty and welfare dependency, compared to the control group.

  • Other:

    A limitation of the evidence from the perspective of U.S. policy is that the RCTs were conducted in Canada and it is not yet known whether the sizable effects would generalize to U.S. settings, which have a different welfare system.

The Canadian Self-Sufficiency Project, administered by the provincial governments of British Columbia and New Brunswick, provided monthly cash payments (“earnings supplements”) to long-term recipients of income assistance (Canadian equivalent to U.S. welfare), contingent on their finding full-time employment and leaving the income assistance program. Canadian Self-Sufficiency Project participants had one year to find full-time employment, and thus become eligible for the supplements. Participants could receive supplements for up to three years as long as they continued to work full-time.

The earnings supplements were sizeable. As an illustrative example — based on the experiment’s formula for determining the size of a supplement payment, a single mother in New Brunswick who worked full-time for a year and earned $23,400 would receive monthly supplements totaling around $5,900 for that year.*

The program cost approximately $6,000-$9,500 per year per welfare recipient offered an earnings supplement (the precise cost depended on the specific welfare population to which it was offered). However, as discussed below, the program’s net costs to the government were much lower than this amount because the program substantially increased income tax revenues and reduced government welfare payments.

Click here for more information about the Canadian Self-Sufficiency Project.

*Throughout this summary, all monetary amounts are converted to 2017 U.S. dollars.

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References

Study 1:

Michalopoulos, Charles, Doug Tattrie, Cynthia Miller, Philip K. Robins, Pamela Morris, David Gyarmati, Cindy Redcross, Kelly Foley and Reuben Ford. “Making Work Pay: Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Long-Term Welfare Recipients.” Social Research Demonstration Corporation, July 2002. Click here for a copy of this paper.

Study 2:

Michalopoulos, Charles, Doug Tattrie, Cynthia Miller, Philip K. Robins, Pamela Morris, David Gyarmati, Cindy Redcross, Kelly Foley and Reuben Ford. “Making Work Pay: Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Long-Term Welfare Recipients.” Social Research Demonstration Corporation, July 2002. Click here for a copy of this paper.

Lei, Ying and Charles Michalopoulos. “SSP Plus at 36 Months: Effects of Adding Employment Services to Financial Work Incentives. “ Social Research Demonstration Corporation, July 2001.

Study 3:

Ford, Reuben, David Gyarmati, Kelly Foley, Doug Tattrie, and Liza Jimenez. “Can Work Incentives Pay for Themselves? Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Welfare Applicants. “Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, October 2003. Click here for a copy of this paper.

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