Measures of Self-Sufficiency

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Chapter 4. Data Sources and Methodology

5.3 Outcomes for Families Randomly Assigned to

5.3.5 Measures of Self-Sufficiency

The impact analysis examines relative effects of the four interventions on several outcomes related to self-sufficiency.

The study team used the followup survey to construct five categories of self-sufficiency outcomes: (1) employment, (2) sources of income, (3) receipt of education or training, (4) food security, and (5) economic hardship.


The study team used responses to the adult followup survey to construct four outcomes regarding employment status.

• Work for pay in week before survey (percent of families).

This outcome measures the percentage of survey respondents who reported working for pay in the week prior to the followup survey.

• Any work for pay since random assignment (percent of families). This outcome measures the percentage of survey respondents who reported working for pay at any time since random assignment.

• Months worked for pay since random assignment (includes partial months). This outcome is a count of the months worked since random assignment, including partial months.

• Hours of work per week at current main job. For adult respondents who had more than one job in the week prior to the survey, the main job is defined as the job at which she or he usually worked the most number of hours per week.

Income Sources and Amounts

The study team also constructed outcomes that measure the percentage of families who reported receiving income from the following sources in the month prior to the survey.

• Earnings.

• Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

• Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

• Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The study team also constructed two other outcomes related to income.

• Annualized earnings from the main job. This outcome measures the annualized value of current earnings from the job reported at the time of the survey. This value usually represents either the product of the reported hourly wage and usual hours per week multiplied by 52 weeks or the reported usual weekly earnings multiplied by 52 weeks.

• Total family income. This outcome measures total family income from all sources for the calendar year preceding the survey (2011 or 2012).

Education and Training

The analysts constructed five outcomes pertaining to partic-ipation in education and training activities during the fol-lowup period. The adult survey asked respondents whether they had participated in any education or training activities since random assignment and, if so, how many weeks they spent in such programs. For up to six programs reported, sample members reported on the type of program. The study team used this information to construct the following education and training outcomes.

• Participated in any school or training lasting 2 weeks or more since random assignment (percent of families).

• Number of weeks in training programs since random assignment.

• Participated in 2 weeks or more of school since random assignment (percent of families). This outcome measures

the percentage of families in whom the adult respondent reported having participated in school or academic training.

School or academic training is defined as regular high school directed toward a high school diploma, preparation for a general educational development (GED) examination, 2-year college, 4-year college, or graduate courses.

• Participated in 2 weeks or more of basic education since random assignment (percent of families). Basic education is defined as nonvocational adult education such as basic education, literacy training, or English as a second language not directed toward a degree.

• Participated in 2 weeks or more of vocational education or training since random assignment (percent of families).

Vocational education or training is defined as vocational edu - cation outside a college such as business or technical schools, employer- or union-provided training, or military training in vocational skills (not military skills).

Food Security and Hunger

The analysis examines impacts of the interventions on food security for two outcomes.

• Household is food insecure (percent of families). This outcome measures the percentage of families determined

“food insecure” at the time of the followup survey according to criteria used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).61

• Food insecurity scale. This outcome measures the food insecurity level of each family based on responses to the USDA food security questions included on the followup survey. The food insecurity scale ranges from 0 to 6, with higher values indicating greater food insecurity.

Economic Stress

The analysts also measured the economic hardship reported by each family at the time of the followup survey. The out-come, expressed as an economic stress scale, measures the extent of hardship using responses about the frequency with which the family said they experienced an inability to afford medical care the family needed, clothing the family needed, leisure activities the family wanted, or rent. The economic stress scale also takes into account the adult respondent’s assessment of the family’s monthly finances; that is, whether they usually have some money left over at the end of the month, barely enough to make ends meet, or not enough to make ends meet.

61 See Nord, Andrews, and Carlsen (2005). The assessment of food insecurity is based on two USDA short-form metrics, which are scores assigned to a household based on answers to six survey questions.

Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families 60 Chapter 5. Description of Usual Care (UC) and Outcomes Measured in the Study

Self-Sufficiency Indicators for the UC Group

Exhibit 5-13 displays the values of the self-sufficiency out - come measures for the UC group. Nearly one-third (31 per - cent) of the adult respondents in these families reported working for pay in the week prior to the survey, and three-fifths (61 percent) said that they had worked for pay at some time since random assignment. The adult respondents in the UC group spent an average of 6.5 months working for pay since random assignment. They worked an average of 9.6 hours per week at the current job, and annualized earnings from the current job averaged $4,842. The 31 percent of UC families who were working at the time of the survey worked an average of 31 hours per week, had hourly earnings of

$10.13,62 and had annualized earnings for the current job of $16,350.

UC families report lower rates of employment than the Effects of Housing Vouchers on Welfare Families study control group, where 47 percent of controls reported working at the point of followup. Employment for the UC group is similar to that reported for homeless families in NSHAPC, however. Data from NSHAPC showed that 71 percent of people in home-less families did not work in the month before that survey (Burt et al., 1999).

For the families in the UC group, income from all sources averaged just over $9,000 for the calendar year prior to the survey, slightly higher than what was reported in NSHAPC ($8,172 in 2011 dollars) and higher than reported at base-line. Regarding sources of income in the month prior to the survey, the UC families reported a high rate of SNAP receipt

Exhibit 5-13. Family Options Study: Self-Sufficiency Outcomes

Outcome Usual Care Group

Mean Value (Standard Deviation) Employment status

Work for pay in week before survey (%) 31.3 (52.7)

Any work for pay since RA (%) 60.6 (55.6)

Months worked for pay since RAa 6.5 (8.5)

Hours of work per week at current main jobb 9.6 (17.8)

Income sources and amounts

Annualized current earnings ($) 4,842 (10,438)

Total family income ($) 9,067 (8,777)

Anyone in family had earnings in past month (%) 42.3 (56.2)

Anyone in family received TANF in past month (%) 30.6 (52.4)

Anyone in family received SSDI in past month (%) 7.4 (29.8)

Anyone in family received SSI in past month (%) 13.1 (38.4)

Anyone in family received SNAP/food stamps in past month (%) 83.4 (42.3)

Anyone in family received WIC in past month (%) 29.6 (51.9)

Education and training

Participated in 2 weeks or more of any school or training since RA (%) 25.4 (49.5)

Number of weeks in school or training programs since RA 3.6 (10.8)

Participated in 2 weeks or more of school since RA (%) 7.4 (29.8)

Participated in 2 weeks or more of basic education since RA (%) 1.6 (14.2)

Participated in 2 weeks or more of vocational education since RA (%) 6.8 (28.7)

Food security/hunger

Household is food insecure (%) 35.5 (54.4)

Food insecurity scalec 1.73 (2.32)

Economic stressors

Economic stress scaled – 0.05 (0.58)

RA = random assignment. SNAP = Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SSDI = Social Security Disability Insurance. SSI = Supplemental Security Income. TANF = Tempo-rary Assistance for Needy Families. WIC = Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

a Number of months worked for pay includes partial calendar months.

b Hours of work per week includes those not currently working (that is, those with 0 hours of work per week).

c Food insecurity scale ranges from 0 to 6, with higher values indicating higher food insecurity.

d Economic stress scale ranges from – 1 to 1, with higher values indicating higher economic stress.

Notes: N = 578. See Appendix B for details on outcome specifications and values. Means and standard deviations are weighted to adjust for survey nonresponse.

Source: Family Options Study 18-month followup survey

62 The average hourly earnings were calculated for those who reported wages on an hourly, weekly, or biweekly basis (representing 90 percent of those working for pay at the time of the followup survey).

(83 percent of families reported receiving SNAP). Other sources of income reported were earned income (42 percent of families), TANF (31 percent), WIC (30 percent), SSI (13 percent), and SSDI (7 percent).

One-fourth of the adult respondents in the usual care families said that they had participated in 2 or more weeks of school or training since random assignment. On average, families in the UC group spent 3.6 weeks in education or training activities. This participation in education and training is less than reported by the voucher study control group. In the

voucher study, 43 percent of control group members reported participating in education and training during that study’s much longer (4- to 5-year) followup period.

Despite the high rate of SNAP receipt reported by UC families, more than one-third (36 percent) met USDA criteria for food insecurity at the time of the followup survey. Food insecurity among the voucher study control group was even higher (42 percent), and receipt of SNAP was less (65 percent). Food insecurity averaged 1.73 on a scale of 0 to 6 (with higher values indicting greater food insecurity) for UC families, lower than for the voucher control group (3.29).

Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families 62




his chapter presents estimates of the impact of the permanent housing subsidy (SUB) intervention compared with outcomes of families served by the usual care (UC) homeless assistance systems in their com-munities. The goal is to determine whether being offered a subsidy on a priority basis (that is, not having to enroll in and reach the top of waiting lists for subsidy assistance) increases families’ housing stability and improves other family outcomes during a 20-month followup interval. The chapter begins with a description of the SUB intervention as implemented in the study. It then shows the extent to which families in both the SUB and UC groups used permanent subsidies and other housing and service programs available to them in the study sites. The next five sections present the effects of being offered the SUB intervention (as compared with UC) on outcomes within the five study domains—

housing stability, family preservation, adult well-being, child well-being, and self-sufficiency.

6.1 Permanent Housing Subsidy (SUB) Intervention

The SUB intervention provided indefinite rental assistance, typically in private-market housing. The intervention could include housing placement assistance but not ongoing social services. SUB was available in 10 of the 12 study sites. The subsidies were provided by 18 local and state public housing agencies (PHAs), with some sites having more than 1 par tici - pating PHA. In total, 599 families were assigned to SUB, ranging from 32 in Louisville, Kentucky, to 76 each in

Alameda County, California, and Denver, Colorado. Of these 599 families, 530 (88 percent) responded to the 18-month followup survey and so are included in the impact analysis documented in this report.

6.1.1 Housing Assistance in SUB

All the housing assistance included in the SUB intervention is considered permanent; that is, families can continue re - ceiving housing assistance as long as they remain eligible and follow program rules, such as paying their share of the rent and living in housing that passes a housing quality in -spection. In all sites, recipients of the subsidy were subject to annual recertification of income to determine the tenant’s share of the rent and the amount of the housing assistance payment made to the owner of the housing.

In 8 of the 10 sites (comprising 92 percent of family referrals), the SUB intervention was a tenant-based voucher provided by one or more PHAs through the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program, as shown in Exhibit 6-1. One of the sites offered permanent housing subsidies through public housing units (6 percent of family referrals),63 and another offered project-based vouchers (3 percent of family referrals).64 The HCV program is the federal government’s largest housing assistance program, providing rental subsidies to more than 2 million households across the country.65 Participants in the study who were assigned to the SUB intervention, accepted by the PHA, and issued a voucher were free to use the voucher to rent a housing unit of their choice in the private rental market as long as it met HUD’s Housing Quality Standards

63 In Honolulu, Hawaii, the subsidy intervention consisted of 33 units of public housing provided by the state PHA and 10 units of tenant-based rental assistance provided by the city Department of Community Services. Public housing units are owned and managed by the PHA. Like voucher program participants, tenants in public housing pay 30 percent of adjusted monthly income for rent. The city’s tenant-based rental assistance program that provided five SUB units for the study operates much like the HCV program.

64 In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the subsidy intervention was provided through 15 units of project-based vouchers. PHAs can use up to 20 percent of their HCV program funding for project-based assistance, under which a PHA enters into an assistance contract with a property owner for specified units and for a specified term. Recipients of this type of assistance also pay 30 percent of monthly income for rent.


Exhibit 6-1. Subsidy Type Provided by Site

Type of Subsidy Number of Participating Subsidy Programs

With This Type of Subsidy Percent of Families Assigned to Subsidy Intervention of This Type (N = 599)

Tenant-based voucher 16 92

Project-based voucher 1 3

Public housing 1 6

Note: Percentages do not add to 100 because of rounding.

Sources: Program data; random assignment enrollment data

and had a rent that the PHA determined to be reasonable when compared with the rents of unassisted units in the same housing market. The voucher assistance subsidized the monthly rent for the unit, and the amount provided by the subsidy was the payment standard established by the PHA (or the unit’s actual rent, if lower) minus 30 percent of the family’s adjusted monthly income.66

6.1.2 Supportive Services in SUB

The SUB intervention was intentionally selected to provide an intervention without ongoing, designated, intensive sup - portive services. Upfront housing placement assistance was allowed, however. Of the 18 participating subsidy providers, only two programs—Honolulu, Hawaii’s public housing program and Bridgeport, Connecticut’s project-based voucher program—indicated they provide any case management ser - vices. These two represented only 8 percent of the study referrals (and also 8 percent of SUB followup survey respon - dents). Only 20 percent of families were referred to PHAs that indicate that they help applicants locate qualified hous-ing units, 20 percent of families were referred to PHAs that provide assistance resolving conflicts with landlords, and an even smaller percentage were referred to programs that provide moving assistance or help in learning how to main-tain the unit. PHAs did not alter their usual practices for providing help to study families. In some cases, emergency shelter staff assisted families assigned to SUB to obtain assis-tance for paying PHA arrearages or move-in costs. Families who receive voucher assistance can, of course, access any available services in the community on their own.

6.1.3 Eligibility Criteria for SUB

All PHA-administered subsidy programs have statutory eligi - bility criteria that require prospective families to be able to document U.S. citizenship or legal status, absence of drug- related criminal convictions, lack of previous evictions from a federally funded housing program, and absence of arrearages

to the PHA.67 In some cases, SUB programs asked the research team to add eligibility screening criteria beyond those statu - torily required, such as a question related to whether the family had a consistent source of income (two SUB programs required this question), willingness to reside within the PHA’s jurisdiction (two SUB programs required this question), and ability to pay security deposits and other startup costs (one SUB program required this question). Exhibit 2-11 in Gubits et al. (2013) shows information on the percentage of families referred to SUB programs with these requirements.

In some sites, PHAs have residency requirements for the HCV program, so families who receive a voucher must use it in a designated jurisdiction for a specified period of time.

For example, voucher recipients in the Oakland Housing Authority’s program could use the voucher only in the city of Oakland, California, for the first year of assistance. After that time, participants could move with the voucher to another PHA jurisdiction.

After enrolling in a SUB program, tenants remain eligible for the subsidy assistance indefinitely. Their incomes are recertified annually and must remain low enough to qualify them for a subsidy value greater than $0, and they must pay their share of the rent and not engage in other lease violations.

The most common form of the subsidy, an HCV, is portable, and the family may use it to move to a different housing unit.

6.2 Program Use by Families in the Permanent Housing Subsidy (SUB) Versus Usual Care (UC) Comparison

Each impact comparison in the study may be thought of as a distinct experiment or test, and this chapter addresses only the comparison between SUB and UC, without reference to the families who were randomized to the community-based rapid re-housing (CBRR) and project-based transitional hous - ing (PBTH) interventions. In total, 1,039 families took part

66 Payment standards are adjusted for the number of bedrooms in the unit. The actual rent includes an estimate of the cost of utilities paid for by the tenant. Details regard-ing the calculation of housregard-ing assistance payments under the HCV program are in 24 CFR Part 982.505.

67 Although all SUB programs used these eligibility criteria, not all SUB programs asked the study team to screen prospective study participants for these items before random assignment. This accounts for the discrepancy between Exhibit 2-11 in Gubits et al. (2013) and this statement.

Short-Term Impacts of Housing and Services Interventions for Homeless Families 64 Chapter 6. Impacts of Permanent Housing Subsidy (SUB) Compared With Usual Care (UC)

in the test of SUB versus UC. These families all had the oppor - tunity to be assigned to SUB or UC at the point of random assignment and were assigned to one of these two interven-tions; 599 families were assigned to SUB and 540 families were assigned to UC.68 Of these 1,039 families (599 SUB families and 540 UC families), 530 SUB families and 415 UC families (91 percent) responded to the 18-month followup survey. Therefore, 945 families are included in the SUB-versus-UC impact comparison reported in this chapter. The current section describes the extent to which the 530 SUB families used the SUB intervention and other types of home-less and housing assistance during the followup period.

Parallel information is presented for the 415 UC families.

Exhibit 6-2 shows the use by these 945 families of seven types of homeless and housing programs. The first column

Exhibit 6-2 shows the use by these 945 families of seven types of homeless and housing programs. The first column

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