Scrivener, S., Azurdia, G., & Page, J. (2005). The Employment Retention and Advancement project: Results from the South Carolina ERA site. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
- The study’s objective was to estimate the impact of South Carolina’s Moving Up program on former welfare recipients’ employment, earnings and public benefits receipt outcomes after one year. The South Carolina site was one of 16 sites nationwide that participated in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project.
- The authors randomly assigned 2,864 people who had recently left Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to either a treatment group that received Moving Up 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 Stamp administrative records for the entire sample and a survey administered to a subsample of study participants 12 months after random assignment.
- The study did not find any statistically significant effects on employment, earnings, and public 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 are confident that any estimated effects would be attributable to the South Carolina Moving Up program and not to other factors. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.
The Employment Retention and Advancement Project, South Carolina
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. South Carolina was one of 16 sites across the United Sates 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 Moving Up program, developed by the Department of Social Services in South Carolina, operated from September 2001 to April 2005 and focused on people who had left TANF from October 1997 to December 2000 in six rural counties throughout South Carolina.
The Moving Up program provided participants with one-on-one case management services aimed at serving people according to their needs. More specifically, the program provided either pre- or post-employment services depending on a program member’s work status. Program activities included counseling on career goals and job readiness, job search assistance, short-term education or training, child care and transportation assistance, and/or mental health and other support services. Moving Up was not mandatory program: instead, it engaged participants using modest incentives, including cash rewards or gift certificates for reaching benchmarks (such as finding or holding a job, getting a promotion, completing education or training activities, and so forth).
Features of the Study
Each month from September 2001 through January 2003, a lottery-like process randomly selected 100 participants for the treatment group, Moving Up, and for the control group, which could participate in other employment programs in the community. The study dropped those who had returned to the TANF rolls after December 2000 and were randomly assigned in error, and people randomly assigned in January 2003 if they lacked a full year of follow-up data when the report was published (171 people). The sample size for the final report totaled 2,864 participants. Participants in the research sample averaged 31.8 years of age. Most of the participants were black, non-Hispanic (78.5 percent). About 45 percent had a high school diploma or a General Education Development certificate. Nearly 28 percent received TANF for two years or more.
The authors estimated employment, earnings, and public benefits receipt impacts by comparing regression-adjusted UI wage records and TANF and Food Stamp administrative records of treatment and control group members over the first year after random assignment. The study also estimated employment, earnings, and benefits receipt outcomes using a survey administered to a subsample of study participants 12 months after random assignment.
- Chesterfield County, SC
- Darlington County, SC
- Dillon County, SC
- Florence County, SC
- Marion County, SC
- Marlboro, SC
- The study did not find any statistically significant effects on employment, earnings, or public benefits receipt outcomes.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
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 any estimated effects would be attributable to the South Carolina Moving Up program, and not to other factors. However, the study did not find statistically significant effects.