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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Early results from four sites [Chicago] (Bloom et al. 2005)

Citation

Bloom, D, Hendra, R., Martinson, K., & Scrivener, S. (2005). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Early results from four sites. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [Chicago]

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to determine the effectiveness of a Chicago program to increase the earnings of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients after one year. The Chicago site was one of 16 nationwide to participate in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
  • The authors randomly assigned 990 TANF recipients to either a treatment group, which received enhanced employment services, or a control group, which received benefits as usual. The authors collected employment and earnings data from Illinois Unemployment Insurance (UI) records and Food Stamps and TANF receipt data from Illinois administrative records.
  • The study found that those in the Chicago ERA program received, on average, $193 less in TANF benefits in the first year after random assignment than those 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 Chicago ERA project, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

The Employment Retention and Advancement project, Chicago

Features of the Intervention

The ERA project was introduced in 1999 as a nationwide exploration of factors that help welfare recipients not only find employment but retain their positions and advance in their careers. Chicago was one of 16 sites across the United States to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement a program intended to improve welfare recipients’ employment outcomes.

In Chicago, people eligible for the program were recipients of TANF who worked 30 hours or more per week for six months or more but were still eligible for TANF. ERA services aimed to increase their earnings. Clients were invited to an orientation session at the provider’s office and offered a $50 gift certificate for attending the session. Consenting clients who were randomly assigned to ERA (operated by a for-profit company) could meet with a career and income advisor who would help them develop a career and income advancement plan. The advisor counseled participants about how to advance in their current jobs and (more commonly) helped them apply for higher-paying jobs in companies that had relationships with the program. Services could include education and training, but fewer than one-quarter of program participants received those services. In addition to the 30-hour work requirement that was part of their TANF participation, clients had to maintain regular contact with their case managers; failure to do so could result in a sanction of their TANF benefits. The staff–client relationship often continued after people left TANF.

Features of the Study

Eligible Chicago TANF recipients were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, which could receive enhanced employment services through Chicago ERA, or a control group, which received customary benefits but not enhanced employment services. Randomization took place from February 2002 to March 2003. This study focused on the 990 people (493 ERA, 497 control) randomly assigned from February to September 2002.

The authors estimated the program’s effect on employment and earnings 12 months after random assignment using Illinois UI records. The authors also used Illinois administrative data to estimate the program’s impact on TANF and Food Stamps receipt 12 months after random assignment.

Findings

  • The study found that those in the Chicago ERA program received, on average, $193 less in TANF benefits in the first year after random assignment than those in the control group.

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 Chicago ERA project, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2016

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