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Learning about job search: A field experiment with job seekers in Germany (Altmann et al. 2015)

Citation

Altmann, S., Falk, A., Jäger, S., & Zimmermann, F. (2015). Learning about job search: A field experiment with job seekers in Germany. Unpublished manuscript.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine whether providing job search information to unemployed job seekers affected their labor market outcomes.
    • German citizens identified as unemployed were randomly assigned to the treatment group, which was mailed an informational brochure, or to the control group, which was not mailed a brochure. The Integrated Employment Biographies, an administrative database available through the German Federal Employment Agency, was the primary data source for the study.
    • The study did not find any statistically significant effects of the brochure on the employment or earnings outcomes of the treatment group relative to the control group. However, the study did find positive impacts of the brochure on earnings and employment outcomes for the subgroup of individuals who had been identified as being at risk of long-term unemployment.
    • 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 informational brochure, and not to other factors.

Features of the Study

One-hundred sixty thousand individuals who had recently registered for unemployment insurance in Germany were randomly assigned to either a treatment group, which was mailed an informational brochure, or a control group, which was not mailed a brochure. Individuals were eligible for the study if they were German citizens between the ages of 25 and 55. Individuals were excluded if they had re-registered for unemployment after having participated in a training program, were civil servants, or were self-employed. Random assignment occurred in four waves between October 2010 and January 2011; in each wave, the authors randomly assigned 10,000 eligible individuals to the treatment group and 30,000 eligible individuals to the control group.

The brochure was designed to inform and motivate unemployed individuals to find work. It consisted of four parts: (1) facts about the current labor market in Germany, (2) information on the benefits of job search efforts and the association of longer unemployment spells with lower rates of finding jobs, (3) evidence of beneficial health and other non-financial outcomes associated with employment, and (4) job search resources.

The authors analyzed data from the Integrated Employment Biographies, an administrative data source available through the German Federal Employment Agency, which contains information on individuals’ employment status, earnings, gender, age, and education level. The authors estimated regression models comparing the employment and earnings outcomes of the treatment and control group members for 52 weeks after the brochure was mailed.

Findings

    • The study did not find any statistically significant effects of the brochure on employment or earnings outcomes of the treatment group as a whole relative to the control group as a whole.
    • The brochure had a statistically significant effect on employment and earnings for the subgroup of individuals identified as being at risk of long-term unemployment; for this subgroup, individuals in the treatment group were employed for 4.78 days more and had average earnings of 446.20 EUR higher than individuals in the control group over the 52 weeks following the intervention.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The authors noted that, although the estimated impacts were small and confined to the subgroup that had been identified as being at risk of long-term employment, the intervention itself was very low-cost, and thus might have been cost-effective.

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 the informational brochure, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

February 2016

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