Cave, G., Bos, H., Doolittle, F. & Toussaint, C. (1993). JOBSTART: Final report on a program for school dropouts. New York: MDRC.
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the JOBSTART program on employment, earnings, and education and training outcomes over a four-year follow-up period.
- About 2,300 youth were randomly assigned to either the treatment group, which was eligible to participate in JOBSTART, or the control group, which could not participate in JOBSTART but could access other services in the community. The authors compared the outcomes of the treatment and control groups using data collected through follow-up surveys 12, 24, and 48 months after random assignment.
- The study found that, 48 months after random assignment, members of the treatment group were significantly more likely to have participated in education or training, and completed significantly more hours of it, compared with the control group. The treatment group was significantly less likely to be employed and earned significantly less than the control group in the first year after random assignment. There were no significant impacts on earnings or employment outcomes in later follow-up years.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the JOBSTART program, and not to other factors.
The JOBSTART Program
Features of the Intervention
JOBSTART was implemented in 13 sites nationwide from 1985 to 1989. It provided a combination of basic skills education, occupational training, support services, and job placement assistance for low-skilled school dropouts. To be eligible for the program, youth had to be ages 17 to 21 years old; have dropped out of school without earning a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate; have reading skills below the 8th-grade level; and be economically disadvantaged.
The program was voluntary and intended for participants to receive at least 200 hours of basic skills education and 500 hours of occupational training. The basic skills education prepared youth to obtain a GED certificate and, thereafter, begin occupational skills training. Participants completed workbook exercises in reading, mathematics, and other subjects included on the GED test. As part of the occupational training component, youth attended vocational skills courses that offered training for specific occupations. JOBSTART also offered support services, such as child care and transportation assistance, to facilitate participation. When participants completed their education and training, JOBSTART offered them job placement assistance. In the study, participants spent an average of 125 hours in education, 238 hours in training, and 27 hours in other activities—totaling about 400 hours of programming per person over roughly six months, on average.
Features of the Study
The 2,312 youth who met eligibility criteria and consented to participate in the program were randomly assigned to either the treatment group, which was offered the opportunity to participate in the JOBSTART program, or the control group, which could not participate in the JOBSTART program but could access other services available in the community. The authors conducted follow-up surveys 12, 24, and 48 months after random assignment with both the treatment and control groups. This study focused on data from the 48-month follow-up survey, to which 988 treatment and 953 control group members responded. Using this follow-up survey data, the authors estimated regression models comparing the outcomes of treatment and control group members and controlling for relevant baseline characteristics.
- The study found that 48 months after random assignment, members of the treatment group were 17 percentage points more likely to have completed a GED, 13 percentage points more likely to have completed a GED or high school diploma, and 16 percentage points more likely to have received a trade certificate or license, compared with the control group members. These differences were statistically significant.
- Members of the treatment group completed 367 more hours of education or training than the control group members as of 48 months after random assignment, which was a statistically significant difference. These findings were driven by differences between the two groups in the first 24 months following random assignment; differences in later follow-up periods were not statistically significant.
- The study found that treatment group members earned $499 less, were 4 percentage points less likely to be employed, and worked 109 fewer hours than the control group in the first year following random assignment. In later follow-up years, however, there were no significant differences between the groups on earnings or employment outcomes.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors suggested that the negative findings in earnings and employment domains in the first year following random assignment are indicative of participants being more involved in program activities and therefore having less time to work outside the program. Similarly, the positive impacts on training and education outcomes were limited to the first two years after random assignment, when participants were most likely to be involved in such activities through JOBSTART itself.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the JOBSTART program, and not to other factors.