Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study's objective was to examine the impact of the Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA) on education, employment, earnings, and public benefits receipt outcomes.
- The study was a randomized controlled trial. Authors obtained information on participants' education and employment at baseline, one-year, and two years after random assignment and used statistical models to examine differences in outcomes between the groups.
- The study found that LARCA participants had significantly higher credential completion rates but lower employment rates and earnings and were more likely to receive public benefits than control participants.
- This study receives a high evidence rating. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA), and not to other factors.
Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA)
Features of the Intervention
The Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA) was designed and developed by the Economic Workforce and Development Department (EWDD) of the City of Los Angeles to provide dropout youth with education and employment services. The program built on lessons learned from prior programs and pilots operated by EWDD and LARCA partner agencies. The goal of the LARCA program was to provide high school dropouts in the Los Angeles area with access to education, employment, and case management services. The program served youth between the ages of 16 to 24 who dropped out of high school. To address participants’ education, training and employment needs, case workers developed and oversaw individualized service plans for all LARCA program participants. The LARCA program offered several services including work-readiness training, financial literacy and life skills workshops, educational services aimed at helping individuals obtain a high school diploma or equivalent certification, vocational training, supportive services, and employment services (including paid work experience and job search and placement assistance). Youth were also connected to postsecondary education at local community colleges and private programs across a range of industries (e.g., health care, construction, and conservation and green technology).
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial. Study participants were identified and recruited by providers at the six LARCA program sites from January 2013 through October 2014. Participants had to be between the ages of 16 to 24 years old, a resident of Los Angeles County, a high school dropout or a student identified as chronically absent, low income, and eligible to work in the United States. After completing the consent form and program application, 1,066 participants were randomly assigned to receive LARCA program services (treatment group) and 1,012 participants were assigned to receive other services in the community (control group). Authors obtained information on participants' education and employment at baseline, one year, and two years after random assignment. Authors also obtained baseline demographic, education history, and employment history data from participant's program application forms that were completed prior to random assignment. One-year follow-up data were collected for all participants and two-year follow-up data were collected for half of the study participants. The authors examined the differences in outcomes between participants in the treatment and control groups using statistical models.
The program was implemented by six program providers in Los Angeles, California:
- The Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD)
- Los Angeles Conservation Corps (LA Conservation Corps)
- Youth Opportunity Movement-Boyle Heights (YO! Boyle Heights)
- Youth Opportunity Movement - Watts (YO! Watts)
- Youth Policy Institute - San Fernando Valley (YPI San Fernando)
- Youth Policy Institute - Pico Union (YPI Pico Union)
Earnings and wages
- The study found that control participants had significantly higher earnings than treatment participants during the second through fifth quarter after random assignment, earning an average of $1,837 more in year two.
Education and skills gains
- The study found that treatment participants were significantly more likely to receive any secondary education credential compared to control participants at the one-year follow-up (13 percent vs. 8 percent) and two-year follow-up (25 percent vs. 16 percent).
- The study found that control participants were significantly more likely to be employed at the one-year follow-up compared to treatment participants (61 percent vs. 54 percent, respectively). There were no significant differences between groups at two years.
- The study also found that control participants were employed for significantly more quarters in year two than treatment participants.
Public benefits receipt
- The study found that treatment participants were significantly more likely than control participants to have ever received unemployment benefits at the one-year follow-up (2 percent vs. 1 percent). However, no significant differences between the groups were found at the two-year follow-up.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it was based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Los Angeles Reconnections Career Academy (LARCA), and not to other factors.