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The SSRC Library allows visitors to access materials related to self-sufficiency programs, practice and research. Visitors can view common search terms, conduct a keyword search or create a custom search using any combination of the filters at the left side of this page. To conduct a keyword search, type a term or combination of terms into the search box below, select whether you want to search the exact phrase or the words in any order, and click on the blue button to the right of the search box to view relevant results.

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  • Individual Author: Sacks, Vanessa; McGill, Brittany; Seefeldt, Kristin; Clum, Kim
    Reference Type: Conference Paper
    Year: 2016

    This video from the 2016 Research and Evaluation Conference on Self-Sufficiency contains a breakout session focusing on disconnected families--those in which adults are neither working nor receiving cash assistance. Panelists discussed the characteristics and circumstances of these families and barriers they face to self-sufficiency.

    This video from the 2016 Research and Evaluation Conference on Self-Sufficiency contains a breakout session focusing on disconnected families--those in which adults are neither working nor receiving cash assistance. Panelists discussed the characteristics and circumstances of these families and barriers they face to self-sufficiency.

  • Individual Author: Hendra, Richard; Dillman, Keri-Nicole; Hamilton, Gayle; Lundquist, Erika; Martinson, Karin; Wavelet, Melissa; Hill, Aaron; Williams, Sonya
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2010

    Research completed since the 1980s has yielded substantial knowledge about how to help welfare recipients and other low-income individuals prepare for and find jobs. Many participants in these successful job preparation and placement programs, however, ended up in unstable, low-paying jobs, and little was known about how to effectively help them keep employment and advance in their jobs. The national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project sought to fill this knowledge gap, by examining over a dozen innovative and diverse employment retention and advancement models developed by states and localities for different target groups, to determine whether effective strategies could be identified.

    Using a random assignment research design, the ERA project tested the effectiveness of programs that attempted to promote steady work and career advancement for current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers. The programs — generally supported by existing public funding, not special demonstration grants — reflected state and...

    Research completed since the 1980s has yielded substantial knowledge about how to help welfare recipients and other low-income individuals prepare for and find jobs. Many participants in these successful job preparation and placement programs, however, ended up in unstable, low-paying jobs, and little was known about how to effectively help them keep employment and advance in their jobs. The national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project sought to fill this knowledge gap, by examining over a dozen innovative and diverse employment retention and advancement models developed by states and localities for different target groups, to determine whether effective strategies could be identified.

    Using a random assignment research design, the ERA project tested the effectiveness of programs that attempted to promote steady work and career advancement for current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers. The programs — generally supported by existing public funding, not special demonstration grants — reflected state and local choices regarding target populations, goals, ways of providing services, and staffing. The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. This report presents the final effectiveness findings, or impacts, for 12 of the 16 ERA programs, and it also summarizes how the 12 programs were implemented and individuals’ levels of participation in program services.

    Key Findings

    • Out of the twelve programs included in the report, three ERA programs produced positive economic impacts; nine did not. All three programs increased employment retention and advancement. Increases in employment retention and earnings were largest and most consistent over time in the Texas ERA program in Corpus Christi (one of three sites that operated this program); the Chicago ERA program; and the Riverside County, California, Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) ERA program. These programs increased annual earnings by between 7 percent and 15 percent relative to control group levels. Each of them served a different target group, which suggests that employment retention and advancement programs can work for a range of populations. However, three-fourths of the ERA programs included in this report did not produce gains in targeted outcomes beyond what control group members were able to attain on their own with the existing services and supports available in the ERA sites.
    • Increases in participation beyond control group levels were not consistent or large, which may have made it difficult for the programs to achieve impacts on employment retention and advancement. Engaging individuals in employment and retention services at levels above what they would have done in the absence of the programs was a consistent challenge. In addition, staff had to spend a lot of time and resources on placing unemployed individuals back into jobs, which made it difficult for them to focus on helping those who were already working to keep their jobs or move up.

    Before the ERA project began, there was not much evidence about the types of programs that could improve employment retention and advancement outcomes for current or former welfare recipients. The ERA evaluation provides valuable insights about the nature of retention and advancement problems and it underscores a number of key implementation challenges that a program would have to address. In addition, it reveals shortcomings in a range of common approaches now in use, while identifying three distinct approaches that seem promising and worthy of further exploration. (Author abstract) 

  • Individual Author: Navarro, David; van Dok, Mark ; Hendra, Richard
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2007

    Although much is known about how to help welfare recipients find jobs, little is known about how to help them and other low-wage workers keep jobs or advance in the labor market. This report presents an assessment of the implementation and effects at the two-year follow-up point of a program in Riverside County, California, that aimed to promote job retention and advancement among employed individuals who recently left the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the cash welfare program that mainly serves single mothers and their children. The study is part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, which is testing 15 programs across the country (including two programs in Riverside). The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    This ERA intervention in Riverside County, called the Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) program, was designed to provide former TANF...

    Although much is known about how to help welfare recipients find jobs, little is known about how to help them and other low-wage workers keep jobs or advance in the labor market. This report presents an assessment of the implementation and effects at the two-year follow-up point of a program in Riverside County, California, that aimed to promote job retention and advancement among employed individuals who recently left the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, the cash welfare program that mainly serves single mothers and their children. The study is part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, which is testing 15 programs across the country (including two programs in Riverside). The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    This ERA intervention in Riverside County, called the Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency (PASS) program, was designed to provide former TANF recipients with voluntary postemployment services — such as case management, counseling and mentoring, and help with reemployment — to help them keep their jobs, remain off TANF, and advance their earning potential. PASS is being evaluated using a random assignment research design whereby eligible individuals were assigned, through a lottery-like process, either to a program group, whose members were actively recruited by one of five local PASS service providers to engage in an array of postemployment services, or to a control group, whose members were eligible to receive less intensive postemployment services from the Riverside Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), if they requested such services from DPSS. The outcomes for the control group represent what would have happened in the absence of the PASS program, providing a benchmark against which to compare the PASS program. (Author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Martinson, Karin; Hendra, Richard
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2006

    Although much is known about how to help welfare recipients find jobs, little is known about how to help them and other low-wage workers keep jobs or advance in the labor market. This report assesses the implementation and two-year follow-up effects of a program in Texas that aimed to promote job placement, employment retention, and advancement among applicants and recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Texas program is part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, which is testing 15 such programs across the country. The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    To encourage employment retention and advancement among working TANF leavers, the Texas ERA program provided job search assistance, pre- and postemployment case management, and a monthly stipend of $200. The program was evaluated in three sites — Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, and Houston — starting in 2000. The ERA evaluation uses a...

    Although much is known about how to help welfare recipients find jobs, little is known about how to help them and other low-wage workers keep jobs or advance in the labor market. This report assesses the implementation and two-year follow-up effects of a program in Texas that aimed to promote job placement, employment retention, and advancement among applicants and recipients in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The Texas program is part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, which is testing 15 such programs across the country. The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

    To encourage employment retention and advancement among working TANF leavers, the Texas ERA program provided job search assistance, pre- and postemployment case management, and a monthly stipend of $200. The program was evaluated in three sites — Corpus Christi, Fort Worth, and Houston — starting in 2000. The ERA evaluation uses a random assignment research design: Through a lottery-like process, eligible individuals were assigned either to a program group, whose members participated in the ERA program, or to a control group, whose members participated in Texas’s standard welfare-to-work program (called “Choices”). The control group’s outcomes tell what would have happened in the absence of the ERA program, providing benchmarks against which to compare the program group. (author abstract)

  • Individual Author: Fein, David J.; Beecroft, Erik
    Reference Type: Report
    Year: 2006

    Welfare reforms of the 1990s moved thousands of single parents off the welfare rolls and into jobs. Their economic status nonetheless has remained fragile, as most of these jobs provided low wages, few benefits, and little opportunity for advancement. A major obstacle to better jobs has been that most of this population lacks the education and skills needed for economic advancement. In response, researchers and practitioners have renewed the search for effective education and training (E&T) strategies for welfare recipients and other low-income adults. Building on studies of past E&T programs, reformers are focusing particularly on emerging innovations that address weaknesses in traditional instruction and help students balance school with work and family responsibilities. Community colleges have become active laboratories for designing and testing these new approaches. One series of innovations has entailed building “bridge programs” to prepare disadvantaged adults to succeed in college. Another approach has been to restructure regular college classes to make it easier...

    Welfare reforms of the 1990s moved thousands of single parents off the welfare rolls and into jobs. Their economic status nonetheless has remained fragile, as most of these jobs provided low wages, few benefits, and little opportunity for advancement. A major obstacle to better jobs has been that most of this population lacks the education and skills needed for economic advancement. In response, researchers and practitioners have renewed the search for effective education and training (E&T) strategies for welfare recipients and other low-income adults. Building on studies of past E&T programs, reformers are focusing particularly on emerging innovations that address weaknesses in traditional instruction and help students balance school with work and family responsibilities. Community colleges have become active laboratories for designing and testing these new approaches. One series of innovations has entailed building “bridge programs” to prepare disadvantaged adults to succeed in college. Another approach has been to restructure regular college classes to make it easier for students to balance school, work, and family responsibilities. In August 1998, two agencies in Riverside County California launched a model program that combined both approaches—the New Visions Self-Sufficiency and Lifelong Learning Project. Riverside Community College (RCC) designed and operated this program in partnership with the county’s Department of Public Social Services (DPSS). New Visions tested the thesis that success in college and success at work require similar skills and that these skills can be imparted to welfare recipients in a single program. The program provided 24 weeks of preparatory studies at RCC, followed by short sequences of regular college courses providing training for a specific job. New Visions participants attended classes for 12 hours a week, in addition to working at least 20 hours a week in an unsubsidized job. Believing that the project had substantial demonstration value, the partners developed a random assignment evaluation to test New Visions. They engaged Abt Associates Inc. as the third-party evaluator and secured funding from the federal Administration for Children and Families to support the evaluation. New Visions is the first community college bridge program to be evaluated using random assignment, considered to be the gold standard methodology in evaluation research. Two previous evaluation reports provided early and interim evaluation findings. Here, the final findings on the New Visions project are provided. (author abstract)

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