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)