Hendra, R., Dillman, K-N., Hamilton, G., Lundquist, E., Martinson, K., Wavelet, M., Hill, A., & Williams, S. (2010). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: How effective are different approaches aiming to increase employment retention and advancement? Final impacts for twelve models. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families. [Texas ERA—Corpus Christi]
- 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 four years. The Corpus Christi site was one of three in Texas that participated in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
- The authors randomly assigned 1,727 unemployed single-parent participants in Corpus Christi’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 and a survey administered 12 months after random assignment.
- The study found that, compared with the control group, those in the Corpus Christi ERA group were more likely to be employed at all or for four consecutive quarters in the fourth year after random assignment. Corpus Christi ERA group members also had higher earnings and received lower Food Stamps benefits.
- 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 ERA program and not to other factors.
The Employment Retention and Advancement project, Corpus Christi
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 Corpus Christi, separately, so CLEAR also reviewed the results for those sites separately.)
TANF recipients assigned to the Texas ERA program attended an initial orientation and then a four-day job search workshop. They then spent four to six weeks searching for jobs. 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 months if they were employed for at least 30 hours per week, participated in a post-employment advancement activity, or left TANF; they were also eligible for the stipend if they worked 15 hours per week and participated in an education and training activity. The first four months of earnings for people in the program were disregarded when calculating their eligibility for the stipend. Texas ERA staff also helped clients with job-related problems, reemployment assistance, and support in 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 October 2000 to January 2003, approximately 1,727 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.
The authors estimated employment and earnings impacts by comparing regression-adjusted UI wage records of treatment and control group members over the four years after random assignment. The authors also calculated program impacts for benefit receipt measures, including whether participants received TANF or Food Stamps, through four years after random assignment using TANF and Food Stamps administrative records.
- The study found that, in the fourth year after random assignment, treatment group members were statistically significantly (p<0.05) more likely to be employed than control group members (67.5 versus 63.0 percent) and employed for four consecutive quarters (34.3 versus 29.8 percent).
- On average, ERA group members in Corpus Christi earned $428 more than control group members in year 1 after random assignment, and $896 more in year 4, with both differences statistically significant at the 5 percent level.
- Over the four years after random assignment, ERA group members received $134 less in Food Stamps benefits than control group members, and this difference was statistically significant at the 5 percent level.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The study authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to long-term benefit receipt. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not report that they performed statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.
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 ERA program, and not to other factors.