Absence of conflict of interest.
The study’s objective was to examine the impact of integrated and comprehensive employment services provided by the Workforce Education and Readiness Continuum - Travis County (WERC-TC), a consortium of service providers, on program participants’ earnings and employment.
Using Unemployment Insurance wage and employment data, the authors conducted a nonexperimental study in which employment and earnings outcomes for WERC-TC participants were compared to outcomes for individuals in a matched comparison group who received only basic job search services either online or at a local career center.
The study suggested that WERC-TC participants had higher rates of employment and higher average earnings after receiving WERC-TC services than members of the comparison group who received more basic job search assistance.
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar on important characteristics before the intervention. This means we cannot be confident that the estimated findings are attributable to the WERC-TC organizations and not to other factors.
Workforce Education and Readiness Continuum – Travis County
Features of the Intervention
The Workforce Education and Readiness Continuum – Travis County (WERC-TC) is a consortium of four workforce development service providers in Travis County, Texas. WERC-TC organizations serve Travis County residents who are at least 16 years old, are U.S. citizens or have right-to-work status, and whose incomes are below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Member organizations use a shared intake and client management system to streamline and coordinate the provision of employment services to program participants. Member organizations provide a variety of employment services, including individual case management, Adult Basic Education (ABE), English as a Second Language (ESL), job search assistance, educational assistance, paid internships, and assistance accessing vocational training programs.
Features of the Study
The authors used a nonexperimental design in which employment and earnings outcomes for WERC-TC participants were compared to outcomes for individuals in a matched comparison group. WERC-TC participants – the “treatment group” – consisted of 2,248 individuals who exited the WERC-TC program between fiscal years 2016 and 2018. In this group, the average age was 39 years old, over half reported having a 12th grade education or high school equivalence, 40% reported judicial involvement, and 8% identified as veterans.
A comparison group was constructed using Travis County residents who registered with WorkInTexas (WIT), an online job search resource, or who received basic job search services either online or at a local career center. The authors used propensity score matching to construct a comparison group that was like the treatment group in terms of gender, education level, prior employment, prior earnings, and prior unemployment insurance benefit receipt.
The authors then compared average quarterly employment and earnings for treatment and comparison group members using Unemployment Insurance wage data collected by the Texas Workforce Commission. The authors present findings using both raw and adjusted means (which control for the same covariates used in the matching procedure).
The study suggested that WERC-TC program participants were more likely to be employed after exiting from WERC-TC services than members of the comparison group, who received a more limited set of job search services.
Earnings and wages
The study suggested that WERC-TC program participants reported higher average quarterly earnings after exiting from WERC-TC services than members of the comparison group, who received a more limited set of job search services.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors relied on a propensity score matching approach intended to construct a comparison group that was statistically indistinguishable from the treatment group. However, the authors did not account for potentially important characteristics like age, race, or ethnicity during the matching process, nor did they control for these characteristics when estimating program impacts. Because preexisting differences on these key demographic characteristics or others could explain the observed differences in outcomes, the study is not eligible for a moderate causal evidence rating, the highest rating available for nonexperimental research designs.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low because the authors did not ensure that the treatment and comparison groups were similar on some key demographic dimensions. This means we cannot be confident that the estimated effects are attributable to WERC-TC programming and not to other factors.