Hollenbeck, K., & Huang, W-J. (2008). Workforce program performance indicators for the Commonwealth of Virginia. (Upjohn Institute Technical Report No. 08-024). Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. [WIA-Adult]
- The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title I program for adults (including dislocated workers) on participants’ employment and credential completion rates.
- The study used administrative records to compare the outcomes for low-income adults who took part in the WIA program with a nonexperimental-matched group of adults who did not take part in the program.
- The study found that the WIA program participants had higher employment and credential completion rates than those of people who did not participate in the program.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups compared were similar before program participation. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA Title I program for adults (including dislocated workers); other factors are likely to have contributed.
- This study also examined the effectiveness of other workforce development programs. Please click here to find CLEAR profiles of those studies.
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title I Program for Adults
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The WIA adult program was authorized by Title I of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 and was superseded by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), effective in July 2015. WIA adult program services, which remain 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 serves all people ages 18 and older through a set of core services, including 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 can receive intensive services—which include counseling and specialized assessments—and vouchers for attending training. Some local areas provide supportive services such as child care, transportation, and work-related financial assistance to those who qualify.
Features of the Study
Using data from program administrative records, Unemployment Insurance records, the Wage Record Interstate System, and the community college system, the authors compared education and employment outcomes of those who took part in the WIA program with outcomes of those who did not take part in the program (both groups participated in an employment services program). The authors compared the two groups on employment two and four quarters after program exit and on the percentage of each group that had earned an education credential during the program or within one year of program exit. This analysis included 6,373 WIA participants in Virginia who exited the program from July 2004 to June 2005.
- Employment. The study found that the employment rate of WIA participants was significantly higher than that of the comparison group, with an employment rate that was 4.7 percentage points higher in the second quarter and 3.4 percentage points higher in the fourth quarter after program exit.
- Education and/or training attainment and completion. The study found that WIA participants were significantly more likely than members of the comparison group to have earned an education credential during the program or within one year of program exit (54 percentage points higher).
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors presented unadjusted treatment effects in the study. This profile reports adjusted effects obtained directly from the authors.
Although the authors accounted for many underlying characteristics of the groups being compared, which could also influence their outcomes, the authors’ decision to define the groups based on their date of program exit rather than program entry is problematic. For example, suppose that the WIA participants and comparison group members were on identical wage trajectories before receiving services from their respective programs and that the average length of participation in WIA services was six months, whereas that for the employment services program was one month. At the conclusion of participation, they exited the program.
If we compared the groups’ earnings 6 months after their recorded exit dates, we would observe WIA participants’ earnings about 12 months after they started receiving services and comparison group members’ earnings about 7 months after they started receiving services. If both programs were completely ineffective and everyone stayed on their original upward-sloping wage trajectory, it would appear as though the WIA participants earned more 6 months after their exit dates. However, this would not be attributable to receiving WIA services; it would be caused by the different elapsed time across the groups (12 months for WIA participants versus 7 months for comparison group members). Therefore, studies defining the groups based on exit date, rather than entry date, cannot receive a moderate causal evidence rating.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not ensure that the groups compared were similar before program participation. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the WIA Title I program for adults (including dislocated workers); other factors are likely to have contributed.
Hollenbeck, K. (2011). Short-term net impact estimates and rates of return. In D.J. Besharov & P.H. Cottingham (Eds.), The Workforce Investment Act: Implementation experiences and evaluation findings (pp. 347-370). Kalamazoo, MI: W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.