Caseworker's discretion and the effectiveness of welfare-to-work programs

Jonneke Bolhaar, Nadine Ketel, Bas van der Klaauw*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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In this paper we focus on the role of caseworkers in the assignment and take-up of welfare-to-work programs. We conduct a field experiment that generates exogenous variation in the assignment of caseworkers to different policy regimes. The experiment allows us to provide evidence on the effectiveness of welfare-to-work programs and to study how caseworkers exploit their discretion in assigning these programs to welfare recipients. We find substantial heterogeneity in how caseworkers assign welfare-to-work programs. Participation in the experiment and learning about the effectiveness of the different programs do not induce caseworkers to focus more on the effective programs. Obtaining knowledge about welfare-to-work programs is thus not enough to improve policy, also effort on implementation is required.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104080
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Economics
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • Caseworkers
  • Field experiment
  • Welfare-to-work


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