Heinrich, C.J., and Mueser, P. (2014). Training program impacts and the onset of the Great Recession. Columbia, MO: Department of Economics, University of Missouri-Columbia, unpublished. [Adult sample]
- The study’s objective was to examine whether participation in the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult Program services increased participants' earnings and if so, whether those gains were greater during a recessionary period than in periods before and after the recession.
- The authors analyzed administrative data to compare the quarterly earnings of participants receiving services through the WIA Adult Program with those of a matched comparison group that received Wagner-Peyser Employment Services (ES). The study presented impacts separately by gender and program year.
- The study found that males and females receiving services from the WIA Adult Program from June to December 2007 (before the recession) earned more, on average, than the comparison group in some, but not all, of the 16 follow-up quarters examined. Males and females receiving services from July 2008 to June 2009 and from July 2009 to June 2010 (after the onset of the recession) tended to earn less, on average, than the comparison group in most of the 16 follow-up quarters.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA Adult Program services, but other factors might also have contributed.
- The report also examined the impacts of WIA Dislocated Worker services; that profile is available here.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Adult Program
Features of the Intervention
The WIA Adult Program was authorized by Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and was superseded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), effective in July 2015. The Adult Program services, which remained essentially the same under WIOA, were designed to provide quality employment and training services to eligible workers. Administered through Local Workforce Investment Areas, the Adult Program served all people ages 18 years and older through core services; these included job placement assistance, skills assessments, and provision of information on the labor market, among other services. In addition, those unable to obtain a job through core services alone could receive intensive services—which included counseling and specialized assessments—and vouchers for attending training. Recipients of public assistance and other low-income participants received priority for intensive and training services in Local Workforce Investment Areas in which program funds were limited. In addition, some local areas provided supportive services such as child care, transportation, and work-related financial assistance to those who qualified.
Features of the Study
The treatment group included workers who participated in WIA Adult Program services in Missouri from July 2007 to June 2010, regardless of the tier of services they received. The authors used a statistical technique called propensity-score matching to create a comparison group of workers who received ES services, which included job search assistance. Those selected for the comparison group were as similar as possible to the treatment group on demographic characteristics and previous earnings history. The resulting sample included 15,443 treatment group members and matched comparisons.
The authors used WIA and ES administrative data and wage/earnings data from Missouri’s Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. They estimated differences in quarterly earnings between the treatment and comparison groups after adjusting for demographic characteristics and pre-program employment and earnings history. They presented results by gender and program year.
- Males who received services through the WIA Adult Program from July to December 2007 (before the recession) earned more, on average, than the comparison group in quarters 1 and 4 after program entry, but not in other quarters.
- Males who received services from July 2008 to June 2009 (during the worst of the recession) earned less, on average, than those in the comparison group in quarters 3 through 10, and those who received services from July 2009 to June 2010 (at the beginning of the recovery) earned less in quarters 1 through 11 after program entry than those in the comparison group.
- Females who received services through the WIA Adult Program from July 2007 to December 2007 (before the recession) and from January 2008 to June 2008 (beginning of the recession) earned more, on average, than the comparison group in almost every quarter.
- Females who received services from July 2008 to June 2009 (during the recession) earned less in quarters 1 through 5 and more in quarters 10 through 16 than those in the comparison group, whereas those who received services from July 2009 to June 2010 (at the end of the recession) earned less in quarters 1 and 2 and 4 through 6 and more in quarters 10 through 12 than the comparison group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors included in the treatment group workers who had received any tier of WIA services. All participants received core services, although 70 to 90 percent (depending on the year examined) received either intensive or training services, and about 30 to 50 percent received training. The authors noted that the results from Missouri, where the effects of the recession were greater and the recovery slower than in other states, might not be representative of the United States as a whole.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a well-implemented nonexperimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA Adult Program services, but other factors might also have contributed.