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Earnings progression among workforce development participants: Evidence from Washington State. (Chrisinger 2011)

Citation

Chrisinger, C.K. (2011). Earnings progression among workforce development participants: Evidence from Washington State. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult Program on the earnings of low-income adults ages 18 to 64 in Washington State.
  • The author assigned workers to the treatment group if they received employment-related services through the WIA Adult Program from January 2002 to June 2008. Workers who participated in the Labor Exchange program during this time comprised the comparison group.
  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between receiving services through the WIA Adult Program and quarterly earnings.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before program participation. This means we would not be confident that the estimated effects would be attributable to the WIA Adult Program; however, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult Program

Features of the Intervention

The WIA Adult Program was authorized by Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and was superseded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), effective in July 2015. The Adult Program services remained similar under WIOA and were designed to provide quality employment and training services to eligible workers. Administered through Local Workforce Investment Areas, the Adult Program serves all people ages 18 years and older through core services; these include job placement assistance, skills assessments, and provision of information on the labor market, among other services. In addition, those unable to obtain a job through core services alone could receive intensive services—which included counseling and specialized assessments—and vouchers for attending training. Recipients of public assistance and other low-income people received priority for intensive and training services in Local Workforce Investment Areas in which program funds were limited. In addition, some local areas provided supportive services such as child care, transportation, and work-related financial assistance to those who qualified.

Features of the Study

The study included a sample of 5,677 workers who received services through the WIA Adult Program and 12,360 workers who received services through the Labor Exchange program from January 2002 to June 2008 in Washington State. The study participants were ages 18 to 64 throughout the course of the study. The WIA Adult Program participants were 58 percent female and 28 percent nonwhite. Those in the comparison group were 47 percent were female and 23 percent nonwhite.

The authors used administrative data sources, including the Services, Knowledge and Information Exchange System and Unemployment Insurance records, to compare the quarterly earnings of WIA participants with those of Labor Exchange participants who exited the program at the same time.

Findings

  • The study found no statistically significant relationships between receiving services through the WIA Adult Program and quarterly earnings.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

Although the author accounted for many underlying characteristics of the groups being compared, which could also influence their outcomes, the author’s decision to define the groups based on their date of program exit rather than program entry is problematic. For example, suppose that the WIA and Labor Exchange participants were on identical wage trajectories before receiving services from their respective programs and that the average length of participation in WIA services was six months, whereas that for Labor Exchange was one month. At the conclusion of participation, they exited the program.

If we compared the groups’ earnings 6 months after their recorded exit dates, we would be looking at WIA participants’ earnings about 12 months after they started receiving services and Labor Exchange participants’ earnings about 7 months after they started receiving services. If both programs were completely ineffective, and everyone stayed on their original upward-sloping wage trajectory, it would appear as though the WIA participants earned more 6 months after their exit dates. However, this would not be attributable to receiving WIA services; it would be caused by the different elapsed time across the groups (12 months for WIA participants versus 7 months for Labor Exchange participants). Therefore, studies defining the groups based on exit date, rather than entry date, cannot receive a moderate causal evidence rating.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the author did not ensure that the groups being compared were similar before program participation. This means we would not be confident that the estimated effects would be attributable to the WIA Adult Program; however, the study did not find statistically significant effects

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2016

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