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Publication #FCS9188

Profiles of the Hard-to-Employ and the Implications for Job Success1

Elizabeth B. Bolton and Muthusami Kumaran2

To Participate in the Welfare-to-Work Program

To participate in the Welfare-to-Work program, individuals must qualify by meeting specific criteria. In order to qualify as Hard-to-Employ, an individual must be

  • a current recipient of TANF/WTP for at least 30 months, or

  • within 12 months of becoming ineligible, or

  • a former TANF/WTP participant who is no longer eligible to receive benefits because of time limits.

In order to qualify as long-term welfare-dependent, individuals must be current TANF/WTP recipients and also demonstrate other characteristics associated with long-term welfare dependency (e.g., school drop-out, teenage pregnancy, poor work history, victim of domestic violence). All of these criteria can be considered risks associated with welfare dependency. The increased number of risks an individual has associated with their life will affect the ability to find and maintain sustainable employment (Table 1).

Table 1. 

Number and percent of participants with a particular risk factor.

Risk Factor



Current Recipient of TANF






Poor Work History



Teen Pregnancy



No High School/GED






Food Stamps



Currently, 34% (165) of participants in the program qualify as hard-to-serve and 59% (284) qualify as long-term welfare-dependent. The majority of participants are female at 89% while only 11% of the participants are male (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. 

Gender of participants

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The oldest participant in the program to date is 58, while the youngest is 15. The average age of program participants is 31 years. Furthermore, while most participants are female and in their early thirties, the majority are also single with over 51% (251) indicating their marital status as such (see Figure 2.)

Figure 2. 

Marital status

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Only 10% (44) of participants indicated their current marital status as being married. Slightly over 20% indicated that they were divorced, separated, or widowed. The implications of this demographic are important when we consider that most participants are potentially without a partner to assist them with daily household routines, of which childcare is certainly included.

According to Figure 3, 54% of participants have at least one and as many as four children. Therefore, the importance of childcare becomes critical for single moms who wish to work.

Figure 3. 

Participants' number of children

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Being single and having children are important added risk factors which make it difficult to find sustainable employment for many program participants.

The majority of program participants are African-American with 64% (306). The next largest groups are Caucasian with 29% (140) and Hispanic 7% (32; Figure 4). There were three individuals who identified themselves individually as Filipino, Native American, and Asian. Because there were so few in these categories they were not included in Figure 4.

Figure 4. 

Racial profile of participants

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

As mentioned before, most participants have compounded risks that decrease their ability to attain or maintain sustainable employment. When we add up the number of risks with which these individuals must struggle, we find that on average most participants have an average of 2.5 risk factors (Figure 5). Close to 50% have at least three or more of these risk factors to contend with, and some have as many as ten. When the number of risk factors are compared between various groups, we find that women on average will have significantally more risk factors than men, with a mean difference of 2.5. Furthermore, Caucasians will also have a statistically significant higher mean number of risk factors.

Figure 5. 

Number of risk factors

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Overall, the average participant in the Welfare-to-Work program is female, African-American, single, 31 years of age with more than two children, and has an average of 2.5 risk factors associated with her life. The combination of multiple risks and being single with children make the move from welfare to sustainable employment difficult for these individuals. Yet, they do succeed and have progressed far beyond their own expectations. Why they succeed is not easy to quantify. There are strong correlations between successful completion of one educational component, and there also seems to be a certain momentum that plays a key role in building individual pride, self-esteem, and success. This momentum may be the key to finding and maintaining gainful employment.

About This Report

This report, Profiles of the Hard-to-Employ and the Implications for Job Success (FY603), is part of the UF/IFAS Welfare-to-Work Initiative (Grant #A6218) funded by the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation (formerly Florida Department of Labor and Employment Security).

The principal investigator was Elizabeth B. Bolton, professor emeritus, Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL.



This document is FCS9188, one of a series of the Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 2002. Revised March 2015. Visit the EDIS website at


Elizabeth Bolton, professor emeritus; and Muthusami Kumaran, assistant professor; Department of Family, Youth, and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.