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Interpreting Experimental Evidence in the Presence of Postrandomization Events: A Reassessment of the Self-Sufficiency Project

Chris Riddell and W. Craig Riddell ()

Journal of Labor Economics, 2020, vol. 38, issue 4, 873 - 914

Abstract: The Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP) was a well-known welfare-to-work experiment that provided a generous but time-limited financial incentive to leave welfare and enter the workforce. Experimental evidence showed large short-term impacts but no lasting effects. We argue that these conclusions need to be reassessed. Policy changes implemented during the SSP implied that the control group’s behavior did not provide an appropriate counterfactual. We estimate the impacts the financial incentive would have had in an unchanging policy environment. This reassessment leads to significant changes in the lessons previously reached. Our study demonstrates that experimental findings need to be interpreted with care.

Date: 2020
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