What Works to Improve Employment and Earnings for People with Low Incomes?

What Works to Improve Employment and Earnings for People with Low Incomes?

Synthesis Report, OPRE Report # 2022-51
Published: Feb 28, 2022
Publisher: Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
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Associated Project

Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse

Time frame: 2018-2023

Prepared for:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation

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Authors

Dana Rotz

Key Findings
  • On average, the interventions assessed by the Pathways Clearinghouse improved outcomes relative to the services offered to individuals in comparison groups that did not receive intervention services. This improvement in outcomes, on average, was equivalent to an increase in earnings of about $1,000 per year. Interventions had the biggest effects on short-term employment and education or training attainment.
  • Twenty-nine of 144 individual interventions show evidence of improving average outcomes for intervention participants compared with comparison groups that did not receive intervention services. Most other interventions had a favorable effect on outcomes, but these effects were not statistically significant.
  • The Pathways Clearinghouse classified interventions according to the primary, or main, service they offered. The largest effects were found among interventions focused on education and training, work or work-based learning, and employment services.
  • The Pathways Clearinghouse also classified interventions based on all services offered, using a set of 26 common employment and training services. Several specific services were associated with larger intervention effects, especially transitional jobs, occupational or sectoral training, subsidized employment, education opportunities, soft-skills training, and work experience.
  • Interventions had larger effects when participation in services was voluntary and when an intervention was implemented by a private provider (such as a nonprofit).
  • Interventions tested in samples in which a greater share of participants identified as Black or Hispanic had smaller effects on employment.

Policymakers, practitioners, and researchers can use this report to understand the research findings on the effectiveness of interventions and services that can help people with low incomes succeed in the labor market. Through a comprehensive search strategy, the Pathways Clearinghouse team has examined over 8,000 research manuscripts and reviewed the research on 221 interventions. This report synthesizes information from these manuscripts and interventions.

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