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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Early results from four sites. [Texas ERA—Houston] (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. [Texas ERA—Houston]

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to estimate the impact of pre- and post-employment job supports and intensive case management on welfare recipients’ employment and benefits receipt outcomes after one year. The Houston site was one of three in Texas that participated in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
  • The authors randomly assigned 1,816 unemployed single-parent participants in Houston’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program to either a treatment group that received ERA services or a control group that received standard TANF services. The authors analyzed data from Unemployment Insurance (UI), TANF, and Food Stamps administrative records.
  • The study did not find any statistically significant effects of the Houston ERA program on employment, earnings, and benefits receipt one year after random assignment.
  • 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 would be confident that any estimated effects are attributable to the Houston ERA program and not to other factors. However, the study did not find any statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

The Employment Retention and Advancement project, Houston

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. Texas 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. (The authors reported results for three sites in Texas, including Houston, separately, so CLEAR also reviewed the results for those sites separately.)

TANF recipients assigned to the Texas ERA program in Houston attended a four-day job-search workshop after attending an initial orientation. They then spent four to six weeks searching for jobs and the program assigned those who did not then secure employment to community service or volunteer positions. People who found jobs were eligible for a $200 monthly stipend for up to 12 nonconsecutive months if they were employed for at least 30 hours per week, participated in a postemployment advancement activity, or left TANF; or if they worked 15 hours per week and participated in an education and training activity. The first 4 months of earnings for people in the program were disregarded when calculating their eligibility for a stipend. Texas ERA staff also helped clients with job-related problems, reemployment assistance, and support meeting stipend requirements. Program staff made regular employer site visits. Participants were eligible for these services as long as they were eligible for the monthly stipend. Program staff coordinated case management services (including employment assessment, goal-setting and career planning, support services, barrier resolution, and job-search assistance) across several partner agencies.

Features of the Study

From January 2001 through December 2002, 1,950 unemployed, single-parent TANF recipients were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, which received ERA services, or a control group, which received standard TANF services through the existing welfare-to-work Choices program. This program also provided case management and supportive services, but without the team-based approach used in ERA. Also in contrast to ERA, Choices case management services typically did not focus on long-range career goal-setting and planning. This study focused on the 1,816 participants randomly assigned through June 2002.

The authors estimated employment and earnings impacts by comparing UI wage records of treatment and control group members in the first year after random assignment. The authors also calculated one-year program impacts for benefits receipt measures using TANF and Food Stamps administrative records.

Findings

  • The study did not find any statistically significant effects of the Houston ERA program on employment, earnings, and benefit receipt.

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 would be confident that any estimated effects are attributable to the Houston ERA program and not to other factors. However, the study did not find any statistically significant effects.

Reviewed by CLEAR

September 2016

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