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The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Results from the Los Angeles Reach For Success program (Anderson et al. 2009)

Citation

Anderson, J., Freedman, S., and Hamilton, G. (2009). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Results from the Los Angeles Reach For Success program. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of an individualized case management program called Reach for Success (RFS) on employment, earnings, and public assistance receipt for recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance benefits.
    • The study used a randomized controlled trial design, assigning eligible people over a two-year period to either the RFS program or existing services. To estimate the program’s impacts, the authors used administrative employment, earnings, and public benefits data, as well as a 12-month follow-up survey emphasizing respondents’ employment, income, and other outcomes. Outcomes were adjusted for prerandom assignment characteristics.
    • The study found that RFS participants were significantly more likely to receive TANF and Food Stamps benefits at the end of the two-year follow-up period.
    • 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 RFS program and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Reach for Success (RFS)

Features of the Intervention

RFS clients received intensive marketing about available services and individualized attention from case managers. Specifically, RFS helped clients more effectively access work supports (such as child care and transportation) and negotiate work-related issues through the development of soft skills (such as interpersonal and communication skills). Services were tailored to clients’ needs and levels of motivation. Case managers worked with small caseloads and used work-, education-, and training-based strategies to provide coaching and assistance to clients.

To be eligible for the program, which operated through the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) from March 2002 to June 2005, people had to (1) be a single-parent recipient of TANF benefits for no more than one year, (2) reside in one of the three target regions, and (3) have worked 32 or more hours per week in a full-time job for the past 30 days. Beginning in the late 1990s, DPSS-provided postemployment services were offered through the Los Angeles County Greater Avenues for Independence program, which was organized into seven regions. The RFS program was piloted in three of these regions.

Features of the Study

From the end of July 2002 to June 2004, evaluators identified and randomly assigned 5,412 people who met the study eligibility criteria, half to the RFS group and half to the post-employment services group.

Evaluators followed study participants for two years after random assignment, collecting quarterly employment, income, and public benefit (TANF and Food Stamps) data from state administrative records. A subset of sample members also responded to a 12-month follow-up survey that focused on employment, income, and other outcomes. Authors compared the outcomes of treatment and control group members, controlling for prerandom assignment characteristics.

Findings

  • The study found that treatment group (RFS) participants were 3.0 percent more likely to receive TANF and 2.7 percent more likely to receive Food Stamps in the last quarter of the two-year follow-up period than the post-employment services group, although the total amount of benefits they received was statistically similar to the amount that control group participants received.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The increase in public assistance receipt for RFS participants seems contrary to the RFS program’s goal to reduce dependence on TANF and Food Stamps by improving employment outcomes. Significantly more RFS group members than control group members reported receiving help with acquiring public assistance.

The authors attributed the lack of positive program outcomes in employment and earnings to similar experiences between treatment and control group members. Nearly the same number of people in each group sought and received post-employment services and they had statistically similar frequencies of contact with their case managers.

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 RFS and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2015

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