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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Results from the South Carolina ERA site (Scrivener et al., 2005)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

    Not Rated

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest.


Scrivener, S., Azurdia, G., & Page, J. (2005). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Results from the South Carolina ERA site. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


  • The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of The Employment Retention and Advancement Project (ERA)’s Moving Up program in South Carolina which was designed to help people obtain and maintain jobs and advance in their careers.
  • The implementation evaluation used baseline demographic data, program tracking data about participation, a career consultant "time study" detailing how Moving Up staff used their time, and a survey of a subset of participants.  
  • The study found that it was challenging to engage people in Moving Up. Despite efforts to engage participants, staff were only able to reach about 75% of the Moving Up participants, and among those who were reached, many did not participate.   
  • The study used well-designed methods and provided sufficient data to answer research questions.
  • The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in April 2016.

Intervention Examined

The Employment Retention and Advancement Project, South Carolina

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: government agency
  • Location / setting: Multi-site in South Carolina
  • Population served and scale: 2,864 adults who stopped receiving TANF and did not start receiving TANF again between October 1997 and December 2000
  • Industry focus: Not Included
  • Intervention activities: Education and training; Case management; Peer support; Employment support
  • Organizational partnerships: Consultants; Employers; Technical schools
  • Cost: Not Included
  • Fidelity: Not Included

The South Carolina ERA project, Moving Up, aimed to help people who previously received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to obtain, continue, and advance in jobs. Moving Up was developed by South Carolina's Department of Social Services and ran from September 2001 to April 2005. Moving Up was implemented in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina, a rural and economically disadvantaged area. Between September 2001 and January 2003, every month 100 people were randomly selected from a TANF database and assigned to each of the Moving Up group and the control group. Those who were selected to be participants in the Moving Up group were assigned a career consultant who tried to locate and engage the individual. Those who were assigned to the control group did not have access to Moving Up programs but could continue to engage in other community programs. Moving Up offered different services based on participants’ needs, including individual case management to help people who weren't working to find a job and to help people who were working to maintain and advance in their job. Career consultants helped connect participants to services and with job searching and vocational training. Moving Up also offered small monetary incentives for program engagement and employment-related achievements.

Features of the Study

This implementation study used baseline demographic data and data from automated program tracking about participation, a career consultant "time study" on how Moving Up staff used their time, and a survey conducted 12 months after the enrollment with a subset of the sample about participation and engagement.  The sample included 2,864 participants: 1,421 people in Moving Up and 1,443 people in the control group. Across groups, the average age was 31.8. Less than one percent of participants were Hispanic, 78.5% were Black, and 20.4% were White. Just under half of the sample (44.5%) did not have a high school diploma or GED. Sixty seven percent of the sample was employed in the year before random assignment and 52.4% of the sample was employed in the quarter before random assignment.

Study Sites

There were six sites in the study, all in the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina:

  • Chesterfield
  • Darlington
  • Dillon
  • Florence
  • Marion
  • Marlboro


Intervention activities/services

  • The study found that it was challenging to provide services related to postemployment such as advancement and retention services. The study found that the strongest aspect of the program was job placement.
  • The study found that budget cuts and changes in funding impacted Moving Up’s available funding.
  • The study found that while Moving Up was designed to be identical across the counties, there were some differences in implementation. One of the six counties implemented Moving Up as designed. Across counties career consultant time ranged from 19% to 53%. There were also differences in the average number of daily contacts and the average percent of participant-initiated contacts as compared to career consultant-initiated contacts.
  • The study found that it was challenging to find and engage potential participants; less than half (45%) of the Moving Up group was engaged in services during the year after they entered the program, and those that were engaged were not highly engaged. Only about 75% of the participant group was reached by program staff within the first year of entering the program. The study found that outdated contact information in the database made it challenging to reach potential participants.
  • The study found that most staff met the goal of contacting at least three quarters of the participants on their cases and maintaining at least 35% of their cases participating.
  • The study found that when the time study was administered (July 2003), Moving Up staff often had between 61 and 80 activity participants, with an average of 73 active participants on their caseload. Staff had caseloads with an average of 28 additional passive participants and 7 additional pending participants.
  • The study found that at the time of the time study, career consultants spent 31% of their time working with clients, 29% of their time on administrative work, 13% of their time traveling, 8% of their time on job development, 6% of their time reaching out to clients, 5% of their time in staff meetings, and 8% of their time doing other work.
  • The study found large variation in participation; among those who were engaged, the range of number of contacts during the year was between 1 and 52 with an average of 11 contacts. The study found that 29% of those in the Moving Up group were considered to be active during the year after they entered the study, were in contact with program staff at least four times (including at least two in person contacts) and received at least one financial incentive.
  • The study found that staff referred participants to GED and/or vocational training classes, treatment for substance abuse, mental health counseling, and services to support domestic violence victims. The study found that staff also helped participants access supports such as food stamps, Medicaid, and TANF. The program also offered financial incentives for meeting job-related goals (e.g., remaining in a job for one month).
  • The study found few differences in service receipt between the Moving Up group and the control group.
  • The study found that more than one third of contact between participants and their career consultants were general check ins, instead of contact related to specific services like job placement, advancement, or retention.

Reviewed by CLEAR

August 2023

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