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Becoming adults: One year impact findings from the youth villages’ Transitional Living evaluation (Valentine et al. 2015)

Citation

Valentine, E.J., Skemer, M., & Courtney, M.E. (2015). Becoming adults: One year impact findings from the youth villages’ Transitional Living evaluation. New York: MDRC.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Transitional Living program on education, earnings, and recidivism outcomes.
  • The authors used a randomized controlled trial and estimated impacts by comparing the means of the treatment and control groups. Outcome data on education, earnings, and criminal involvement came from a 12-month survey conducted by the authors.
  • The study found a statistically significant impact on earnings only. Youth in the treatment group earned an average $611 more than youth in the control group.
  • 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 the Transitional Living, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Transitional Living

Features of the Intervention

The Transitional Living program, now called YVLifeset, provided services to youth transitioning out of foster care or juvenile justice custody. Youth met with a case worker in a series of weekly sessions. The program began with an individual assessment and development of an individual treatment plan. Youth then engaged in a series of activities, such as counseling, referrals to other services, financial assistance, group social and learning activities, and educational and vocational coordination. Most youth participated in the program for nine months.

Features of the Study

The authors used a randomized controlled trial to examine the impact of program participation on education, employment, earnings, and arrests, comparing outcomes in the 12 to 14 months following randomization. Youth who met all the criteria and expressed an interest in the program were randomly assigned to either the treatment or control condition. Youth randomly assigned to the control group received a list of alternative social service providers in their community. Youth randomly assigned to the treatment group could choose to participate in the Transitional Living program.

From October 2010 to October 2012, 1,322 youth ages 18 to 24 who were involved in the foster care or juvenile justice systems were randomly assigned into the study sample. Among youth in the study sample, 60 percent (N = 788) were assigned to the treatment group, and 40 percent (N = 534) were assigned to the control group. Of the full study sample, 71 percent of the youth were 18 years old, 51 percent were white, 37 percent were black, 54 percent had ever been employed, and 64 percent had been arrested at some point. Half of the full sample had been in state custody because of involvement with the justice system.

Outcome data on education, earnings, and criminal involvement came from a 12-month survey conducted by the authors. Data on program participation, including services received, came from the Transitional Living program’s management information system. Data on program implementation came from observations, a staff survey, and interviews with Transitional Living staff. Data on postsecondary school enrollment data came from the National Student Clearinghouse database.

To calculate the impact of the program, the authors compared the regression-adjusted means of the treatment group with the control group. The difference in means is the impact of the program. The authors used statistical tests to determine if the means of the two groups differed significantly.

Findings

  • The study found a statistically significant impact on earnings. Youth in the treatment group earned an average $611 more than youth in the control group.
  • The study found no statistically significant impacts on education or recidivism outcomes.
  • The study found no statistically significant effects on education, earnings, or arrests among the subgroup of justice-involved youth.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

None.

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 the Transitional Living, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

September 2016