Absence of conflict of interest.
Chase-Lansdale, P. L., Sabol, T. J., Eckrich Sommer, T., Chor, E., Cooperman, A. W., Brooks-Gunn, J., Yoshikawa, H., King, C., & Morris, A. (2019). Effects of a two-generation human capital program on low-income parents’ education, employment, and psychological wellbeing. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(4), 433-443.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of CareerAdvance on education, employment, and earnings outcomes.
- The study used a nonexperimental design to compare the outcomes of parents who participated in CareerAdvance to outcomes of parents who did not participate.
- The study found that parents in the treatment group had significantly higher rates of certification, more years of education, and higher rates of enrollment in education and training programs than parents in the comparison group. The treatment group also had significantly higher rates of employment in the healthcare sector, higher rates of part-time employment, and worked more irregular hours than the comparison group.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the CareerAdvance program, but other factors might also have contributed.
Features of the Intervention
Developed in 2008, CareerAdvance is geared to low-income parents and delivered by the Community Action Project of Tulsa County (CAP Tulsa). It provides parental education and workforce training to parents with children in Head Start. Recruitment takes place at the Head Start centers with Head Start providing a guaranteed work support for parents (all day child care). Participants were eligible for CareerAdvance if their child was attending the CAP Tulsa Head Start program, had an interview with a career coach, passed a background check, health status, and drug test, had no financial or academic hold at the community college, and were proficient in English.
CareerAdvance offers education/training in three healthcare tracks: Nursing, Medical Assisting, and Health Information Technology. In addition, the program includes peer meetings led by trained career coaches and parents enroll in classes/training in smaller cohorts (~30) to foster group cohesion. The program is designed to help participants quickly enter the labor market and to reduce the financial burden on parents. The program offers stackable credentials, giving participants the option to exit at multiple points in the program with a certificate or degree. It also offers free tuition, books, materials, and provides financial incentives for reaching milestones (such as getting a certificate). CareerAdvance pays for child care outside of Head Start if needed to accommodate class times or other siblings not in Head Start.
Features of the Study
The study used a nonexperimental design comparing the outcomes of CareerAdvance parents with a matched group of parents from the CAP Tulsa Head Start programs. Initially, 317 parents applied to CareerAdvance, 221 were accepted, and 162 enrolled and agreed to participate in the study. A comparison group of 176 parents was created using propensity scores developed from baseline information. Data were collected at baseline and approximately one year later using data from five sources: Head Start administrative data; questionnaire to Head Start parents on interest in pursuing education and career advancement in the health care sector; in-person parent surveys; Oklahoma Employment Security Commission earnings data; and CareerAdvance administrative data by CAP Tulsa Head Start programs. There were seven cohorts of program participants during the study period from 2011-2014. Due to missing data at follow-up, the analysis sample was reduced to 150 in the treatment and 137 in the comparison group.
Education and skills gain
- The study found that CareerAdvance parents had significantly higher rates of certification completion (58 percentage points) and more years of education (.83) than parents in the comparison group.
- The study also found that CareerAdvance parents had significantly higher rates of enrollment in training/education programs (29 percentage points) than parents in the comparison group.
Earnings and wages
- The study did not find a significant difference between the groups in Year 1 earnings, hourly earnings, or measure of economic hardship.
- The study found that CareerAdvance parents had significantly higher rates of part-time employment (11 percentage points) and worked more irregular hours (11 percentage points) than parents in the comparison group.
- The study also found that CareerAdvance parents had significantly higher rates of employment in the healthcare sector (23 percentage points) than parents in the comparison group.
- The study found no significant differences between the groups in overall employment, full-time employment, or working non-standard hours.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
Outcomes reflect findings after only one year. Outcomes on employment and earnings may not be fully realized at the one-year mark since 2/3 of CareerAdvance parents remained enrolled in the program at the one-year point, which could negatively impact their employment and earnings outcomes. Additionally, much of the data is self-reported through the baseline and follow-up surveys.
Though the authors controlled for motivation it is possible still that the parents who self-selected into the program could differ in observable and unobservable ways, affecting the outcomes of interest. It should also be noted that the study lacks generalizability – the outcomes observed here are specific to a group of parents that were different from the larger population of parents in the CAP Tulsa Head Start program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the CareerAdvance program, but other factors might also have contributed.