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Caseworker–Recipient Interaction: Welfare Office Differences, Economic Trajectories, and Child Outcomes


  • This study was conducted as part of the Next Generation Project, which was supported by grants from the William T. Grant Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The study was supported by a William T. Grant Foundation Scholars Award and by National Science Foundation Grant BCS#021859, supporting the New York University Center for Research on Culture, Development, and Education, to Hirokazu Yoshikawa. We thank Patrick Shrout, Marybeth Shinn, and our anonymous referees for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article, and Carolyn Hill for technical assistance and advice.

concerning this article should be addressed to Erin B. Godfrey, Department of Applied Psychology, New York University, 246 Greene Street, 406W, New York, NY 10003. Electronic mail may be sent to


Drawing on developmental and policy research, this study examined whether 3 dimensions of caseworker–recipient interaction in welfare offices functioned as critical ecological contexts for recipient families. The sample consisted of 1,098 families from 10 welfare offices in National Evaluation of Welfare to Work Strategies (NEWWS). In multilevel analyses, caseworker support, caseload size, and emphasis on employment predicted 5-year quarterly trajectories of earnings, income, and welfare receipt. Recipients in offices characterized by high support had steeper increases in earnings and income; those in offices with high caseload size had steeper decreases in income and welfare receipt; and those in offices with high emphasis on employment had steeper decreases in welfare receipt. These economic trajectories were associated with children’s reading and math achievement and internalizing behavior at ages 8–10.