The Employment Retention and Advancement Project: Results from Minnesota's Tier 2 Program

Published: February 15, 2007
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Employment Retention and Advancement Project (ERA), 1998-2011 | Learn more about this project

Despite advances in the development of programs to help welfare recipients find jobs, a significant portion of the welfare caseload remains on the rolls for long periods without working. This report evaluates the effectiveness of a program in Minnesota, the Tier 2 program, designed to assist those recipients. It was evaluated as part of the Employment Retention and Advancement project, which is testing 15 programs nationwide. The project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor.

The Tier 2 program operated in Hennepin County, which includes the city of Minneapolis, and was built on the services provided by the county’s preexisting welfare-to-work program, the Tier 1 program. Tier 2 differed from Tier 1 as follows: (1) case managers worked with smaller caseloads; (2) clients received in-depth assessments to uncover problems that affected them and their families; and (3) it placed greater emphasis on referring individuals to services to address barriers to employment and placing recipients who could not find work in supported employment positions (whereby participants worked for a wage in jobs supervised by program staff).

The Tier 2 program was evaluated starting in 2002 using a random assignment research design, whereby eligible individuals were assigned either to a program group, whose members were assigned to Tier 2, or to a control group, whose members remained in Tier 1. The Tier 2 program’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over time.