Canadian Social Research Links

The Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP)

Sites de recherche sociale au Canada

Le Projet d'autosuffisance (PAS)


Updated March 31, 2006
Page révisée le 31 mars 2006

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Conceived and funded by Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) and managed by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC), SSP offered a temporary earnings supplement to selected single-parent families receiving Income Assistance (welfare) in British Columbia and New Brunswick. Between November 1992 and March 1995, more than 6,000 single parents who were long-term Income Assistance (welfare) recipients were invited to join the SSP research study.

To collect the supplement (a monthly cash payment based on actual earnings), a single parent had to work full-time and leave Income Assistance. She could then receive the supplement for up to three years, as long as she continued to work full-time and remained off Income Assistance. The supplement roughly doubled the earnings of many low-wage workers (before taxes and work-related expenses).

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NEW

What's New from the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC):

Making Work Pay Symposium Proceedings (PDF file - 432K , 74 pages)
November 15–16, 2005
Social Research and Demonstration Corporation
"This new publication is a summary of the proceedings of the Making Work Pay Symposium, which was held in Ottawa, Canada, on November 15th and 16th, 2005. Senior federal and provincial government representatives, international experts, and leading academic researchers who met at this symposium heard both research findings and practical experience about the latest efforts to encourage work among welfare recipients. In addition, several leading academic researchers presented research that used data from Canada's most famous social policy experiment - the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP). The Making Work Pay Symposium was funded by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC), and was organized by SRDC."

Recommended reading - includes some interesting nuggets of information about welfare reforms over the past ten years (and more, in some cases) in a number of provinces, from the government welfare program perspective, and much more...

"The symposium was the final major event of the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP). This world-famous randomized social policy experiment gave a temporary earnings supplement to single parents on welfare who found full-time work within one year. The project demonstrated that this financial incentive could increase employment and earnings while reducing income assistance receipt and poverty." [Proceedings, page 1 - bolding added]

Human Capital and Search Behaviour (PDF file - 1.2MB, 44 pages)
March 2006
by Audra Bowlus, Lance Lochner, Christopher Robinson, and Yahong Zhang
This working paper uses a structural search model to examine how changes to different parameters in the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) Applicant study might have changed the outcomes of the study. The model allows for the simulation of changes in the length of time an individual is required to stay on IA, the length of time within which a full-time job has to be found, the length of time the bonus can be received, and alternative levels of generosity of the bonus.

The Effect of the Self-Sufficiency Project on Children (PDF file - 318K, 40 pages)
March 2006
by Piotr Wilk, Michael H. Boyle, Martin D. Dooley, and Ellen Lipman
This working paper assesses whether the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) affected the health, behaviour, and academic achievement of children and whether these effects were sustained beyond the period of the intervention. This study assesses the overall effect of SSP on all the children in the program group as well as the effect on those children whose parents received at least one supplement payment. The results suggest that if a program like SSP was to be introduced to the general population, it would be unlikely to affect children's health, behaviour, and academic achievement, regardless of the level of program take-up.

Educational Upgrading and its Consequences Among Welfare Recipients:
Empirical Evidence From the Self-Sufficiency Project
(PDF file - 436K, 64 pages)
March 2006
by Chris Riddell and W. Craig Riddell
This working paper examines the extent and nature of educational upgrading among participants in the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) and the effect that increases in educational attainment had on the employment, earnings, and reliance on welfare among these long-term welfare recipients. The study shows that there is a substantial amount of educational upgrading among single parents on welfare. SSP program group members acquired less additional education than their counterparts in the control group. One possible explanation is that SSP encouraged full-time employment leaving less time for acquiring additional education. Those who upgraded their education generally achieved larger gains in employment and wage rates than did their counterparts who did not acquire additional education, the study concludes.

NEW


 Social Research and Demonstration Corporation
The Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) is a non-profit organization created specifically to develop, field test, and rigorously evaluate social programs designed to improve the well-being of all Canadians, with a special concern for the effects on disadvantaged Canadians.

The Self-Sufficiency Project
"The Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) is a research and demonstration project designed to test a policy innovation that makes work pay better than welfare. SSP offered a generous, time-limited earnings supplement to single-parent, long-term welfare recipients in British Columbia and New Brunswick. SSP began in 1992, and enrolled over 9,000 volunteers. About half were offered the SSP program, a monthly cash payment available to eligible single parents who found full-time jobs and left income assistance within one year of being selected for the program."

SRDC Publications

Some sample publications:

Learning What Works — Volume 6, Number 1 (Spring 2006) - PDF file (1.2MB, 20 pages)
Table of Contents:
- New CEO for SRDC [John Greenwood retiring in July, Jean-Pierre Voyer new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer]
- Making Work Pay Symposium Presents Key Lessons for Developing Income Support Programs That Encourage Work
- SRDC Has a New Look
- SSP’s Impacts on the Distribution of Earnings
- Case Coordination and the Hard-to-Employ: An Initiative to Help the Long-Term Unemployed Move Into Work
- Institutional Factors Can Affect Policy Reforms
- SSP, Education, and Welfare Exits
- SRDC Wins New Contract for a Francophone Early Childhood Project
- Bulletin Board

Estimating the Effects of a Time-Limited Earnings Subsidy for Welfare-Leavers
by David Card and Dean R. Hyslop
Self-Sufficiency Project
February 2005
"Self-Sufficiency Program (SSP) group members would receive an earnings subsidy that could last as long as three years if they began working full time within 12 months of their random assignment to the program group. Consequently, SSP generated two distinct incentives: an initial entitlement incentive to find a job and leave welfare within a year of random assignment, and a post-entitlement incentive to continue to choose work over welfare. The estimates provided in this paper suggest that approximately half of the peak impact of SSP was attributable to the entitlement incentive. Despite the additional employment engendered by the program’s incentives, SSP had no long-term impact on wages, and little or no long-term effect on welfare participation."

Complete report (PDF file - 416K, 56 pages)

Can Work Alter Welfare Recipients’ Beliefs? (PDF file - 236K, 32 pages)
The Self-Sufficiency Project
Peter Gottschalk (Boston College)
February 2005
SRDC Working Paper Series 05-01
NOTE: this is written in economese --- not for the faint-hearted!
(For example: "We find that exogenous increases in work induced by an experimental earnings supplement led to the predicted change in beliefs.")

Do Earnings Subsidies Affect Job Choice?
The Impact of SSP Supplement Payments on Wage Growth
(PDF file - 659K, 50 pages)
January 2003
"This working paper asks whether wage or earnings supplement programs encourage participants to move into jobs with greater wage growth or to change jobs more often in order to raise their wages, and provides an analytical model that identifies the key causal links between earnings subsidies and wage growth. The paper then applies this analytical model to data obtained from the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) to see if the SSP data is consistent with what would be predicted from the model."

Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project:
Can Work Incentives Pay for Themselves? Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Welfare Applicants
October 7, 2003
This report presents the final findings from the Self-Sufficiency Project's Applicant study. It describes the impacts of an earnings supplement on the employment, earnings, income, and welfare receipt of new income assistance applicants through the six years since they were randomly assigned to the study.
Complete report (PDF file - 961K, 164 pages)

Making Work Pay:
Final Report on the Self-Sufficiency Project for Long-Term Welfare Recipients
July 2002
Charles Michaelopoulos, Doug Tattrie, Cynthia Miller, Philip K. Robins, Pamela Morris, David Gyarmati, Cindy Redcross, Kelly Foley, Reuben Ford
Full report (PDF file - 1.6MB, 294 pages)
Related Links: (from Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation - U.S.)
Abstract
Executive Summary (PDF file - 252K, 28 pages)
"When structured properly, programs with financial incentives can be quadruple winners --- encouraging work, increasing earnings, reducing poverty, and benefiting society"

Learning What Works : Evidence from SRDC's Social Experiments and Research (PDF file - 165K, 13 pages)
Newsletter
Spring 2002
- includes a five-page article entitled The Self-Sufficiency Project After 54 Months ("New Report Provides a Wealth of Policy Insight and Knowledge")

SRDC releases 36-month results from the Self-Sufficiency Project
Press Release
August 15, 2000
Program to Encourage Work for Long-Term Welfare Recipients Continues to Hold Promise


Knowledge Directorate / Policy Research Directorate
[Social Development Canada (SDC)]

The Self-Sufficiency Project at 36 Months: Effects on Children of a Program that Increased Parental Employment and Income
- June 2000


Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (U.S.)
"MDRC is a nonprofit, nonpartisan social policy research organization. We are dedicated to learning what works to improve the well-being of low-income people. Through our research and the active communication of our findings, we seek to enhance the effectiveness of social policies and programs."

Canada's Self-Sufficiency Project
"Sponsored by the Canadian government, SSP was managed by the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC).
Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation helped develop and organize the project and had primary responsibility for evaluating it."


The Self-Sufficiency Project (New Brunswick, British Columbia)
Source:
(U.S.) Research Forum on Children, Families and the New Federalism
(Clearing house for collaborative research and informed policy on welfare reform and child well-being)


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E-MAIL: gilseg@rogers.com