Back to work: Testing reemployment services for displaced workers (Bloom 1990)
Bloom, H. (1990). Back to work: Testing reemployment services for displaced workers. Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
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- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Texas Worker Adjustment Demonstration on the Unemployment Insurance (UI) receipt, employment, and earnings of UI claimants one year after program enrollment.
- In this demonstration, about 2,200 UI claimants across three sites were randomized into a treatment group, which received job-search assistance services and, if needed, occupational training, or into the control group, which could receive only existing services in the community. For all participants, the study team collected administrative data and conducted a one-year follow up survey.
- The study found that women who received services at the two El Paso sites earned $987 more and received $193 less in UI benefits in the first year, and were 10 to 20 percentage points more likely to be employed in the first three quarters after entering the program, compared with the control group. The study also found that men in the treatment groups at all three sites received $143 less in UI benefits than men in the control group, but there were no other statistically significant impacts one year after random assignment.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it is an analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial for which attrition cannot be calculated, but for which the author included sufficient statistical controls. This means we have some confidence that the estimated effects are attributable to the demonstration services, although other factors also could have contributed.
Features of the Texas Worker Adjustment Demonstration
The Worker Adjustment Demonstration was designed to help displaced workers in Texas find remployment and minimize wage losses. Three sites were included in the study: one in Houston, operated by the Texas Employment Commission (TEC) and Houston Community College (HCC); and two in El Paso, operated by the El Paso School for Educational Enrichment (SEE) and the Greater El Paso SER Jobs for Progress (SER/JOBS).
Participants were recruited primarily through UI claimant referrals. Eligible applicants were unemployed with little chance of returning to work; receiving or already having exhausted UI benefits; and/or facing particular challenges to reemployment, such as age or language. Each site implemented a one-year program comprising job search assistance and retraining. The programs had two tiers of services: Tier I focused on job search activities and job development and Tier II provided training for those who struggled to find employment through Tier I activities.
- In the TEC/HCC Houston site, Tier I included a career module focused on strategic issues, a job search workshop, and a job club; Tier II included primarily classroom training through HCC. Some on-the-job training was also available.
- The SEE El Paso site offered a job-search workshop and a job club in Tier I; classroom training—mostly basic education and general equivalency diploma courses—and on-the-job training in the form of three-week courses in typing, bookkeeping, and other clerical occupations were offered in Tier II.
- The SER/JOBS El Paso site implemented only a job workshop for Tier I. Tier II consisted primarily of occupational training with some classroom training in auto repair and secretarial skills.
Treatment groups were eligible to receive demonstration services; 2,259 eligible applicants were randomly assigned to a treatment group or a control group that could receive other services available in the community but not demonstration services. Of the 2,192 participants included in the final analysis, 1,026 were at the TEC/HCC Houston site, 530 at the SEE El Paso site, and 636 at the SER/JOBS El Paso site. Data on sample characteristics came from Job Training Partnership Act applications and data on program outcomes came from UI quarterly wage records, UI weekly benefit records, and a one-year follow-up survey.
To measure impacts on UI receipt, employment, and earnings, the author compared the outcomes of members of the treatment groups with those of the control group. Impacts were reported separately by gender and site, but no impacts were reported for women at the Houston site because the sample was too small. The model included dummy variables for site and treatment group, as well as controls for baseline characteristics (race, education, age, prior occupation, week of random assignment, and, in some models, prior earnings, employment, and UI benefits).
- The study found that men in the treatment groups at all three sites combined earned $329 more in the second quarter than those in the control group; however, the impact in the other quarters and averaged over the first year was not statistically significant. They also worked an average of 0.9 weeks more than men in the control group, as of the third quarter following random assignment.
- Men in the treatment groups were about 6 percentage points less likely to receive UI in the first 10 weeks after random assignment and received $143 less in UI benefits over a 30-week period than men in the control group; these differences were statistically significant.
- Women in the treatment groups in the two El Paso sites experienced an average first-year earnings gain of $987 above women in the control group. They were 10 to 20 percentage points more likely to be employed in the first three quarters after random assignment than the control group, according to UI wage records. They had worked 1.5 weeks and 0.9 weeks more than women in the control group in the third and fourth quarters after random assignment, respectively.
- Women in the treatment groups in the El Paso sites were less likely to receive UI benefits at 10, 20, and 30 weeks after random assignment, and received $193 less in UI benefits over a 30-week period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Although the study originated as a randomized controlled trial, the author did not provide the gender breakdown of the original randomly assigned sample by site. Therefore, it was not possible to calculate attrition for the impact estimates in the study, which are presented separately for men and for women. Because of the study’s age, CLEAR did not attempt to ask the study author for this information. Although this means that the study was not eligible for the Clearinghouse for Labor Evaluation and Research’s highest rating, the author included sufficient statistical controls in the analysis to receive a moderate evidence rating.
In addition, the author estimated multiple related impacts in the UI benefit receipt, employment, and earnings domains. Doing so increased the probability of identifying statistically significant differences by chance. Therefore, the number of statistically significant findings in these domains might be overstated.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it is an analysis of data from a randomized controlled trial for which attrition cannot be calculated, but for which the author included sufficient statistical controls. This means we have some confidence that the estimated effects are attributable to the demonstration services, although other factors also could have contributed.