Absence of conflict of interest.
Walter, J., Navarro, D., Anderson, C., & Tso, A. (2017). Testing rapid connections to subsidized private sector jobs for low-income individuals in San Francisco: Implementation and early impacts of the STEP Forward program. OPRE Report 2017-103. 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 impact of STEP Forward on employment, earnings, and education outcomes.
- The authors used a randomized controlled trial to estimate impacts of enrollment in STEP Forward, using administrative data on enrollees and enrollees’ self-reported data.
- The study found that people enrolled in STEP Forward were more likely to become employed and earned more after random assignment than people in the control group. There were no significant differences between the groups in their education outcomes.
- 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 STEP Forward, and not to other factors.
Features of the Intervention
STEP Forward is a voluntary program operated by the Human Services Agency of San Francisco (HSA) under JOBsNOW!, a subsidized employment initiative. STEP Forward was created to provide wage subsidies to private employers to encourage them to hire people who might not have been eligible for employment under other similar subsidized employment services offered under JOBsNOW! The majority of those people are also participating in CalWORKS (California’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program), had exhausted unemployment insurance benefits, or were receiving CalFresh (California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and had no more than six months of earned income within the past 24 months. For employers to be eligible to receive the subsidy, they must offer positions that are at least 25 hours per week at the prevailing wage. The subsidy is based on the position’s hourly wage and has a maximum of $1,000 per month for up to five months. Although the program is designed to have two clients (individual job seekers and employers), the focus of this study and the desired relevant outcomes apply to the individual job seekers.
Through STEP Forward, individual job seekers are screened for their suitability for available subsidized employment. Enrollees who have been assessed as job-ready are reviewed against the available job openings and, if they are considered a suitable fit and are interested in a position, they are interviewed by the employer. Job seekers who are determined to not be job-ready work with the case manager to review their resumes, conduct practice interviews, and receive referrals for additional community services not offered by HSA.
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial. People in the study were randomly assigned to a treatment group who received services under STEP Forward or a control group who did not receive any services under STEP Forward. People in the control group sought out similar services available in the community. The study initially enrolled 837 people, randomly assigning 421 to the treatment group and 416 to the control group. In the analyzed sample of 811 eligible people, the average age was about 41, almost one-quarter were female, about 42 percent were African American or non-Hispanic, and almost 20 percent had no high school degree. The authors compared employment, earnings, and education outcomes one year after random assignment, accounting for people’s background characteristics. Data were drawn from quarterly National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) administrative records and surveys conducted about 12 months after random assignment.
- Compared with members of the control group, treatment group members were significantly more likely to become employed both during the first year after random assignment and during the first quarter of the second year after random assignment.
- During the first year after random assignment, there were no differences between the treatment and control group members in the number of quarters of employment or whether people were employed in all quarters.
Earnings and wages
- Treatment group members were significantly more likely to receive higher annual earnings at the end of the first year after random assignment than members of the control group were.
Education and skills gains
- There were no differences between the treatment and control group in the receipt of a high school diploma or equivalent, or of a professional license or certification, during the first year after random assignment.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Of the 84 percent of the STEP Forward group assigned to receive job interview preparation services, 35 percent never interviewed for a subsidized job. Of those who did interview for and work in a subsidized job (25 percent), it took an average of 3.5 months from the date of random assignment to the first day of work.
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 STEP Forward, and not to other factors.