The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER) was a systematic review of the evaluation research (as it existed between 1990 and 2014) on employment and training programs for low-income adults. ESER produced a searchable, public database and a series of briefs synthesizing the results of the review and highlighting promising strategies identified by the review.
Since the 1990s, a rich research literature evaluating the effectiveness of programs designed to improve the employment-related outcomes of low-income adults has proliferated. The quantity and diversity of the findings, however, can make it challenging to identify the most reliable and relevant research and learn from it. ESER was designed to provide practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and the general public with a transparent and systematic assessment of the research evidence on the effectiveness of these programs.
The review was conducted according to pre-specified standards and methods. The review team systematically conducted a broad literature search to identify relevant studies; screened studies to determine whether they met the criteria for being reviewed; and assessed the rigor of each study’s methods to determine the strength of the evidence they presented. A core component of ESER’s review, as with other federal evidence reviews, involved assessing the quality of the research evidence on different interventions.
Results were presented in a searchable database on the ACF website. The database shares findings from the review and key information about the studies with the most reliable evidence. The website allows users to search for results by program studied, by target population, by favorable impacts found, and in other ways.
Additionally, ESER produced a series of research briefs summarizing the results of the review and examining review topics in greater depth. These briefs
- qualitatively summarize the evidence base on employment strategies for low-income adults;
- describe the evidence on financial incentives and sanctions and, separately, the evidence on work-readiness as strategies for improving employment outcomes;
- recommend best practices for study authors on how to describe impact evaluations of employment programs and strategies;
- identify gaps in the research base on employment strategies for low-income adults
- review all of the studies in the ESER database to conduct a meta-analysis of which employment strategies appear to be most effective.
ESER is serving as a foundation for a new, congressionally mandated database. PL 115-31 directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a systematic evidence review to identify projects that have used a proven or promising approach to move welfare recipients into work. The findings from this evidence review will be shared via a public database, or clearinghouse, called the Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse.
Systematic evidence reviews are a transparent and comprehensive way to reliably review the universe of evaluation research literature and assess the evidence of effectiveness for specific programs and strategies. In recent years ACF and HHS have undertaken systematic evidence reviews in a number of programmatic and policy areas, including home visiting Visit disclaimer page , teen pregnancy prevention Visit disclaimer page and strengthening families.
Mathematica Policy Research conducted the review.
The point of contact is Kim Clum.