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. [Riverside, CA – Work Plus]
- The study’s objective was to examine the effectiveness of a Riverside, California, program to increase the earnings of welfare recipients after one year. The Riverside Phase 2 site was one of two in Riverside that participated in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
- The authors randomly assigned 1,912 employed single-parent participants in Riverside’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to one of two treatment groups (Work Plus or Training Focused) that received different ERA services, or to a control group (Work Focused) that received standard public benefits and some limited case management. This review compared the Work Plus program and the control group. The authors analyzed data from Unemployment Insurance (UI), TANF, and Food Stamps administrative records.
- The study found that those in the Work Plus group were 5 percentage points more likely to receive Food Stamps in the year after random assignment than those in the control group.
- The quality of causal evidence provided in this study is high because it was based on a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Riverside Work Plus program and not to other factors.
The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project—Work Plus (Phase 2), Riverside
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. Riverside included 3 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. (The authors reported results for the Riverside sites separately, so CLEAR also reviewed the results separately.)
TANF recipients assigned to the Riverside Work Plus program could receive intensive case management and enhanced support services, all aimed at encouraging employment stability. Staff encouraged clients to attend education and training activities after working at least 20 hours per week. Participation in education and training activities was based on the philosophy that working reinforces the value of education and training and that working while in school or in training increases the likelihood of program completion and the use of newly attained skills. The program also provided clients with support services (such as child care, transportation, and ancillary payments to participate in program activities), social services (such as mental health, domestic violence, substance abuse), referrals to public assistance programs (for example, TANF, Food Stamps, and Medi-Cal), and job search services.
Features of the Study
The authors randomly assigned eligible single parents in Riverside to one of three groups: a treatment group that was offered Work Plus services; a second treatment group that was offered the Training Focused program; or a comparison group (Work Focused) in which clients were eligible to receive TANF, Food Stamps, child care and transportation assistance, and medical coverage, plus limited and reactive case management. This review focused on the impact of the Work Plus program compared with the control group. The authors estimated the effect of the Work Plus program on employment, earnings, and benefits 12 months after random assignment using UI, TANF, and Food Stamps administrative records. The report focused on the 1,912 single parents, across all three groups, who were randomly assigned from January 2001 to September 2002.
- The study found that 86 percent of the Riverside Work Plus group received Food Stamps in the first year after random assignment, compared with 81 percent of the control group, and the difference was statistically significant.
- The study found no statistically significant effect of Work Plus on employment nor on earnings in the first year of the program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence provided in this study is high because it was based on a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the Riverside Work Plus program and not to other factors.