The Employment Retention and Advancement Project: Results from the South Carolina ERA Site

Published: November 15, 2005
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Employment Retention and Advancement Project (ERA), 1998-2011 | Learn more about this project

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 information on the effectiveness of a program in South Carolina that aimed to help former welfare recipients obtain jobs, work more steadily, and move up in the labor market. The program was run as part of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project, which is testing 15 programs across the country. The ERA project was conceived by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); it is being conducted by MDRC under contract to HHS, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).

South Carolina’s ERA program, Moving Up, which operated between September 2001 and April 2005 in six rural counties, attempted to contact and assist individuals who had left welfare for any reason between October 1997 and December 2000. Typically, nonworking participants received help finding a job, and working participants received help staying in their job or moving up. The core of Moving Up was one-on-one case management, with staff aiming to provide or connect participants with a range of services, including job search assistance, short-term vocational training, and support services. The program also provided modest financial incentives to encourage and reward program engagement and employment achievements.

Moving Up 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 recruited for the ERA program, or to a control group, whose members were not recruited or eligible for ERA services but who could use other services in the community. The program’s effects were estimated by comparing how the two groups fared over time.