Absence of conflict of interest.
The study's objective was to examine the impact of CareerAdvance on educational attainment and persistence, employment, earnings and economic well-being, and psychological well-being.
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare parents who enrolled in CareerAdvance to a matched-comparison group of parents who did not participate in CareerAdvance. The study used administrative data, a parent questionnaire, and parent surveys. The authors used a statistical model to compare the outcomes of treatment and comparison group members.
The study found that parents enrolled in CareerAdvance were significantly more likely to earn a credential, have more years of education, and be enrolled in an education or job training program than parents in the comparison group. The study found no significant difference in the strength of parents’ enrolled in CareerAdvance career identity and that of parents in the comparison group.
This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to CareerAdvance, but other factors might also have contributed.
Features of the Intervention
CareerAdvance was designed and administered by the Community Action Project of Tulsa (CAP Tulsa) beginning in 2008. CareerAdvance is a two-generation human capital intervention designed to enhance Head Start services to support parents' career development. The program also addresses the need for affordable, high-quality child care and early education, allowing parents to complete education and job training programs.
CareerAdvance provides supportive services to parents free of charge including the opportunity to earn a credential in the healthcare sector, coaching support, and peer partner meetings. Parents also received Head Start services including high-quality, full-day child care.
The program serves parents whose children attended CAP Tulsa's Head Start services. To participate, parents must complete an interview led by CareerAdvance coaches, background checks, health status checks, and drug testing. They must have English proficiency and must not have financial or academic holds at the local community college.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design to compare parents who enrolled in CareerAdvance after one year to a matched-comparison group of parents selected from all CAP Tulsa Head Start parents. The matched-comparison group was similar to CareerAdvance enrollees on characteristics including, but not limited to, neighborhood of residence, race, gender, income, and education level.
For the sample of 150 parents enrolled in CareerAdvance and the 137 matched comparison parents, average houshold income was $15,189.74. Nearly all parents were women (98%) and the average age at baseline was 29 years. Forty-percent of parents were African American, 28% were White, and 23% represented another non-Hispanic racial group. Thirty-two percent of parents were single parents. At the beginning of the study, 51% of parents had no postsecondary education experience and 44% had completed some college.
CareerAdvance enrollees could receive the treatment as described above. Parents in the matched-comparison group received only Head Start supports and did not receive the additional education, training, and coaching provided as part of the CareerAdvance program.
Data used in the study include administrative data, a parent questionnaire, and parent surveys. Parents were interviewed to complete structured surveys at the beginning of the study and after one year. The interviews were conducted by trained research assistants with master's and doctoral-level degrees. Parents were given the option to complete the interviews at home or at a Head Start center. The authors used a statistical model with inverse propensity score weights to compare the outcomes CareerAdvance enrollees to parents in the matched-comparison group.
Education and skills gains
The study found that CareerAdvance enrollees were significantly more likely to earn a certification in healthcare after one year (61%) relative to parents in the comparison group (4%).
CareerAdvance enrollees had significantly more education (0.83 more years) after one year relative to the comparison group.
CareerAdvance enrollees were significantly more likely to be enrolled in an educational or job training program (66%) after one year relative to the comparison group (37%).
The study found no significant difference in career identity between CareerAdvance enrollees and parents in the comparison group.
The findings in the employment domain had a low quality of causal evidence because the study did not adequately account for pre-intervention trends. Therefore, we cannot be confident that the findings are due to the program or intervention.
The study reported no significant differences in overall employment, full-time employment, or working nonstandard hours (i.e. nights and weekends) between CareerAdvance enrollees and parents in the comparison group.
A significantly larger proportion of CareerAdvance enrollees were employed part-time relative to parents in the comparison group; were employed in the healthcare sector relative to parents in the comparison group; and worked irregular hours (i.e., shifts or schedules that change week to week) relative to parents in the comparison group.
Earnings and wages
The findings in the earnings and wages domain had a low quality of causal evidence because the study did not adequately account for pre-intervention trends. Therefore, we cannot be confident that the findings are due to the program or intervention.
The study found no significant differences in earnings outcomes between CareerAdvance enrollees and parents in the comparison group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
In regards to education and skills gains, the authors collected data on the baseline education level of participants during the first round of surveys administered as part of the study (an average of roughly two months after the beginning of the intervention). We believe it is unlikely that parent education levels would change in the time between the start of the intervention and completion of the survey, though this could potentially affect the education levels reported by parents.
The findings in the employment and earnings and wages domains had a low quality of causal evidence because the study did not adequately account for pre-intervention trends. Further, the study authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to employment and earnings. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated. Therefore, we cannot be confident that the findings are due to the program or intervention.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to CareerAdvance but other factors might also have contributed.