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Washington State Institute for Public Policy
December 1994
There are two schools of thought about the requirements of a successful welfare-towork program: One believes women on welfare should be encouraged to work, even at low-paying jobs, because steady work experience is a rung on a “wage ladder” that leads to jobs at higher wages. The other believes women on welfare should be encouraged to enroll in education and training to improve their skills and only take jobs with higher wages, because low-paying jobs are a dead end.

Previously, the Family Income Study found that both education/training and work experience affect the possibility of a woman leaving and staying off welfare. In this paper, we address the effects of work experience. We examined the hourly wages of women in the AFDC sample, who worked at least three months in any year during the five-year study period (1988-1992), to see if it was possible to “climb a wage ladder.”
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