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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: A comparison of two job club strategies: The effects of enhanced versus traditional job clubs in Los Angeles (Navarro et al., 2008)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

    Not Rated

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest. 


Navarro, D., Azurdia, G., & Hamilton, G. (2008). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: A comparison of two job club strategies: The effects of enhanced versus traditional job clubs in Los Angeles. 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 Enhanced Job Club which guides unemployed TANF recipients through a “step down” approach to seek employment that encouraged them to seek higher wages and more personally relevant jobs. 
  • The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using interview data, site visit observations, and a 12-month follow-up survey of participants. Evaluators examined the activities carried out, participation, and reported messages received by participants. 
  • The study found that Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) staff implemented the intervention as designed and participants engaged in the core activities of the program, but the participants did not receive the intended ‘hold out’ message of the Enhanced Job Club. 
  • A portion of the study sample was accidentally subject to a different intervention but still included in analysis. Authors provide limited details regarding the data collection and analysis procedures. 
  • The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in February 2016. 

Intervention Examined

The Enhanced Job Club (EJC)

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: County-level human services department 
  • Location/setting: Multi-site in Los Angeles County, California 
  • Population served and scale: Unemployed TANF recipients; 1,138 participants 
  • Industry focus: Not included 
  • Intervention activities: Targeted job application support as part of a 5-week job club 
  • Organizational partnerships: Local employers and training providers 
  • Cost: Not included 
  • Fidelity: Not included 

The EJC Program is part of the Department of Health and Human Services Employment Advancement and Retention project, and the evaluation is funded by the Administration of Children and Families. Job clubs as a part of the welfare-to-work model emerged in the 1970’s. Twenty years later, the principles of the EJC – holding out for a higher paying or more career aligned job – were developed in Portland, Oregon and served as a model for Los Angeles (L.A.) County administrators. The target population was unemployed TANF recipients living in two L.A. County Office of Education regions and speaking English or Spanish. The intervention was implemented in two LACOE regions covering the San Gabriel Valley and the Downtown L.A. areas, each with two LACOE offices. 

This particular program was five weeks long; in week 1, participants developed resumes and learned about the job application and interview process. Program staff helped participants identify careers of interest, expected qualifications and salaries, and positions that could lead to advancement into a desired career or position. Participants were encouraged to hold out for higher paying jobs or jobs that could lead to promotions and advancement, in contrast to prevailing job club messaging which encouraged participants to take any job as soon as they could. In weeks 2-5, participants applied for jobs and checked in regularly with staff. Other social service representatives were available to help participants address other barriers to employment. Participation in week 5 for participants who remained unemployed was optional but offered more one-on-one job placement assistance. Program staff maintained informal partnerships with local employers and training providers to support their clients. The program ran from 2002 to 2004. 

Features of the Study

The authors did not provide details on site selection but both LACOE regions that implemented the intervention were similar in terms of unemployment rates, TANF caseload trends, and dominant industries. A total of 1,138 people participated, almost all of whom were Black or Hispanic women with an average age of 30. Many had young children and limited work experience. To conduct this evaluation, the research team used baseline intake data from all participants, interviews with program staff, observations from site visits, and 12-month survey data from a random sample of participants to determine how the EJC was operated and how participants engaged with it. They do not describe their data collection methodology or analyses in detail. The authors subsequently performed qualitative analysis of interview and site visit data, as well as descriptive statistical analysis of 12-month follow-up survey data. 


Intervention activities/services: 

  • The study found that the program connected many participants with career exploration and job search support. 
  • The study found that staff delivered core EJC services and messages as designed by helping participants identify target jobs and fields of interest. 
  • The study found that participants did engage in job search activities within the EJC model at a fairly high rate. 
  • The study found that participants generally did not receive messages about holding out for higher paying jobs in fields of interest as intended and instead felt pushed to accept an offer as soon as possible. 

Implementation challenges and solutions:

  • The study found that the prevailing “work first” message within the LACOE environment, which encouraged participants to take any job they could land, may have overshadowed the “step down” approach at the core of the EJC. The study did not find solutions to this challenge. 

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Study authors do not include detail about their data collection and analysis procedures. Also, a number of participants in the study sample were actually subject to a different job club model, which may impact the implementation analysis results related to the messages and services received by participants. 

Reviewed by CLEAR

July 2023

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