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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Findings for the Eugene and Medford, Oregon, models: Implementation and early impacts for two programs that sought to encourage advancement among low-income workers. [PROGRESS—Eugene] (Molina et al. 2009)

Citation

Molina, F., van Dok, M., Hendra, R., Hamilton, G., & Cheng, W. (2009). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Findings for the Eugene and Medford, Oregon, models: Implementation and early impacts for two programs that sought to encourage advancement among low-income workers. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. [PROGRESS—Eugene]

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to estimate the impact of post-employment job supports on former welfare recipients’ employment and benefits receipt outcomes after 1.5 years. The Eugene site was one of four in Oregon that participated in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
  • The authors randomly assigned 1,137 employed people who were recent Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program participants to either a treatment group that received ERA services or a control group that could participate in other employment-related programs in the community. The authors analyzed data from Unemployment Insurance (UI), TANF, and Food Stamps administrative records and a survey administered 12 months after random assignment.
  • The study did not find any statistically significant effects on earnings, employment, or benefits receipt 1.5 years after random assignment.
  • 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 would be confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the Eugene ERA program and not to other factors. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.

Intervention Examined

The Employment Retention and Advancement Project, Eugene

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. Eugene, Oregon was one of 16 sites across the United States, including 4 in Oregon, to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to implement a program intended to improve welfare recipients’ employment outcomes.

Eugene’s ERA program (Progress Towards Retention, Opportunities, Growth, Enhancement and Self-Sufficiency, or PROGRESS) was a voluntary post-employment program that provided retention- and career-focused case management. A case manager from the Oregon Department of Human Services and a career development specialist from Lane Community College worked with each client in Oregon Department of Human Services branch offices. The team created a career development plan, including a needs assessment, career goals, and action steps, and documented any need for vocational assessments. Subsequent meeting topics depended on each participant’s needs and included job coaching, education and training referrals, and counseling.

Features of the Study

From June 2002 to June 2004, evaluators randomly assigned 1,179 employed people who were leaving TANF to either a treatment group, which received ERA services, or a control group, which could participate in other employment-related programs typically offered in the community. Eligible individuals had left TANF within one year before study entry and were working at least 20 hours per week at the time of random assignment. This study considered the 1,137 participants for whom 1.5 years of follow-up data were available. Sample members were primarily female, white non-Hispanic, with at least one child, were currently employed, and had hourly wages of $7 or more.

The authors estimated employment and earnings impacts by comparing UI wage records of treatment and control group members over the first 1.5 years after random assignment. The authors also calculated program impacts for benefit receipt measures, including whether participants received TANF or Food Stamps, through 1.5 years after random assignment using TANF and Food Stamps administrative records. Finally, the authors estimated impacts on self-reported employment and earnings using data from a 12-month survey administered to a subsample of study participants.

Findings

  • The study did not find any statistically significant effects on earnings, employment, or benefits receipt 1.5 years after random assignment.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The study mentioned that many participants had already lost their jobs at the time of program entry. Because not all participants were employed, program staff reported having to spend large amounts of time on job search assistance and reemployment instead of career counseling and job retention services.

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

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2016

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