Return to Home Page Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Youtube Rockefeller Institute of Government
Skip Navigation

The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

Welfare, Workforce, and Social Services


Poverty and Evidence-Based Governance

The Rockefeller Institute of Government released a new report on the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity (CEO), an anti-poverty organization established within city government in 2006. The report finds that CEO is a new type of government institution, one focused on measuring a major urban problem and developing, piloting, and rigorously testing new ways of reducing it. The analysis finds that CEO offers an alternative and very different policy process within city government, where policy decisions are made based on the quality of evidence about effects. The report discusses how CEO works with major agencies, promotes innovative pilots, evaluates the programs, uses the results of the evaluations in funding decisions, and measures the problem it is trying to alleviate. The report identifies challenges facing CEO and offers recommendations, including suggestions about how the basic CEO model might be modified and replicated by other governments and be adapted to other issues.
Tom Gais, Patricia Strach, and Katie Zuber, March 2014

Big Cuts in State and Local Government Jobs

Employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show unprecedented cuts in state and local government jobs — five years after the start of the Great Recession in December 2007.
Lucy Dadayan and Donald J. Boyd, January 2013

Performance-Based Contracts in New York City:
Lessons Learned from Welfare-to-Work

This report offers lessons in how state and local governments can manage work by private vendors serving public clients, based on New York's 15-year history with welfare-to-work contractors. Many state and local governments have been contracting with private agencies to deliver public services in recent years, and some have tried to hold those agencies accountable for results through performance-based contracts. The report shows that using performance-based contracts is a challenging task for governments, one that requires extensive oversight and many adjustments over time to ensure contracts produce their intended effects. These conclusions are drawn from an in-depth account of the 15-year history of New York City’s use of performance-based contracts in helping welfare recipients find and keep jobs.
Swati Desai, Lisa Garabedian and Karl Snyder, June 25, 2012

Comments on ‘Changing the Frame: Child Well-Being as a Guide for
Budget and Policy’

State spending on children correlates with actual child well-being, Institute Director Thomas Gais showed in this presentation for a briefing in Washington, D.C. The event, "Changing the Frame: Child Well-Being as a Guide for Budget and Policy" was co-sponsored by First Focus, the Foundation for Child Development and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey. The presentation shows that both state spending and child well-being are higher in the Northeast and Midwest, and lower in the South and Mountain states. In regions where children's well-being is relatively low, there are fewer private resources and lower personal incomes. A drop in public resources since the Great Recession was particularly acute in the South and West. Gais recommended development of policies that appeal to more states, to lessen the regional differences in funding programs that help poor children.
Thomas L. Gais, January 26, 2012

Enforcement of State Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws:
Resources, Procedures, and Outcomes

Lurie examined 18 states' enforcement efforts, looking at staff resources, enforcement procedures, volume of enforcement activity and results achieved. Many of those states enforce their minimum wage laws passively — only in response to workers’ complaints — or not at all, she found. States’ capacity to enforce their minimum wage laws is currently constrained by a lack of resources. Yet their potential to protect low-wage workers is powerful — in some cases, their authority is greater than the federal government’s — and deserves more attention from analysts and policymakers, Lurie states.
Irene Lurie, Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, Volume 15, Number 2, 2011

Financing the Safety Net: Before, During, and After the Great Recession

Institute Director Thomas Gais presented an analysis of safety net funding in a plenary session at the 51st Annual Workshop of the National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics. In data presented here and drawn from a chapter in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government Finance, he showed that the large and rapid increase in federal stimulus funding of safety net programs was unprecedented. Gais also showed that the effect of federal funding was particularly important as state and locally funded safety nets had declined in real value before the Great Recession began in late 2007. Looking to the future, however, there are reasons to expect the U.S. safety net to face financial and administrative challenges. State-funded services are increasingly exposed to large cyclical budget squeezes and may thus be less able to meet needs in recessions. Also, an increasing number of low-income children live in states with weaker fiscal capacities and smaller social safety nets. In addition, current efforts to cut the federal deficit are likely to slash discretionary programs, though federal tax credits — which have grown to be a central part of the national safety net — may be less vulnerable. Federal and state budget squeezes may even affect the administration of safety-net programs, as states have reduced their non-education workforces substantially — which may lead to much less intensive case management. In sum, recent changes and probable future developments indicate that the U.S. safety net is increasingly dependent on federal financing, just as federal financing is increasingly uncertain.
Thomas L. Gais, September 13, 2011

Workforce System One-Stop Services for Public Assistance and
Other Low-Income Populations: Lessons Learned in Selected States

Low-income clients who receive cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program often seek job services at Workforce Investment Act (WIA) career centers. This report finds common characteristics at centers where TANF and WIA coordination has brought success.
David J. Wright and Lisa M. Montiel, April 2010

A New Paradigm for Economic Development

Universities and higher-education systems across the country are taking leading roles in their states’ economic development efforts — and this Institute report says that trend seems likely to strengthen as the nation moves into the era of an “innovation economy.” The study found that higher education’s increasingly important role builds on, but goes well beyond, the research strengths of universities – incorporating efforts as wide-ranging as job training, business consulting, housing rehabilitation and even securing seed money for new businesses.
David F. Shaffer and David J. Wright, March 2010

The Decline of States in Financing the U.S. Safety Net:
Retrenchment in State and Local Social Welfare Spending, 1977-2007

This paper, presented at the “Reducing Poverty: Assessing Recent State Policy Innovations and Strategies” conference at Emory University, examines social welfare spending on the eve of the recession to understand the likely trajectory of funding for different elements of state and local social welfare systems. It finds that state and local spending outside of medical assistance lost much of its real fiscal value since the last recession of 2001-02, especially when inflation-adjusted expenditures are compared to measures of need. Other trends include a growing concentration of state social welfare budgets around medical assistance, declines in federal assistance to states, and growing differences in social service spending across states of different fiscal capacities. The recession may exacerbate most of these developments and, along with the federal stimulus package, reduce the role of state governments in funding the national social welfare system.
Thomas Gais and Lucy Dadayan of the Rockefeller Institute and Suho Bae of Sung Kyun Kwan University, November 2009

Helping in Crisis: Government Assistance in Recession and Beyond

The Institute joined the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to co-host the 49th National Association for Welfare Research and Statistics conference in Albany. The conference brought together representatives from federal, state, and local government, from universities, and from the private and nonprofit sectors, representing the full spectrum of human services programs, to discuss the latest on efforts to reduce poverty and increase self-sufficiency. Much of the discussion involved questions about how the recession and federal stimulus package will impact state and federal roles in providing an adequate safety net for poor Americans.
July 12-15, 2009

Stretched Net: The Retrenchment of State and Local Social Welfare Spending Before the Recession

This article examines social welfare spending on the eve of the recession to understand the likely effects of the economic downturn on the funding of state and local social welfare systems. State and local governments face strong pressures to cut spending in social programs, as they experience sharp slowdowns or reductions in tax revenues. The article finds that state and local spending outside of medical assistance lost much of its value since the last recession of 2001–02, especially when inflation-adjusted expenditures are compared to measures of need. Other trends include a growing concentration of state social welfare budgets around medical assistance, declines in federal assistance to states, and growing differences in social service spending across states.
Thomas Gais, Publius: The Journal of Federalism, June 2009

The New Retrenchment: Social Welfare Spending 1997-2006

State and local spending for social welfare programs — including cash assistance, medical assistance, and social services — fell in 2006 after adjusting for inflation and need, for the first time since 1983. Although this decline was due in part to one-time changes in the Medicaid program, the 2006 decline also confirms broader, downward trends in social welfare expenditures since 2002, as well as major shifts in the relationship between state fiscal capacity and social welfare spending.
Thomas Gais and Lucy Dadayan, September 2008

Spending on Social Welfare Programs in Rich and Poor States

Social welfare spending supports lower-income households. Programs include health initiatives such as Medicaid and state child health insurance programs; cash assistance programs such as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; general assistance, and state supplements to SSI, as well as other service programs including child care, foster care, low-income energy assistance, and services to the homeless.
The Lewin Group and The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, June 2004

How States and Counties Have Responded to the Family Policy Goals of Welfare Reform

Describes how 18 states and 26 counties within those states responded to the family policy provisions of the 1996 welfare law. The report also offers explanations for why state and local efforts to move clients from welfare to work were greater than efforts to promote marriage and prevent nonmarital births; why abstinence-based efforts to achieve lower rates of teen pregnancy overshadowed state and local efforts to achieve the other family policy goals of PRWORA; and how states and localities responded to the family formation goals of the 1996 welfare reform law.
Deborah Orth and Malcolm Goggin, December 2003

The Fiscal Effects of Welfare Reform: State Social Spending Before and After Welfare Reform

This study addresses how state spending on social services has changed since the advent of welfare reform, using detailed survey data from 16 states and the District of Columbia for state fiscal year 1995, and for fiscal years 1999 and 2000.
Donald J. Boyd, Patricia L. Billen, and Richard P. Nathan, May 2003