Innovative Strategies for Addressing Employment Barriers Portfolio

Several past and ongoing OPRE-sponsored evaluations have sought to evaluate programs or interventions that connect low-income individuals to the labor force. While these studies have demonstrated that different types of interventions can improve labor market outcomes for disadvantaged groups, the duration and magnitude of impacts varies substantially and many questions remain. Further, recent developments in the labor market and policy trends have inspired new questions.

Through the Innovative Strategies for Addressing Employment Barriers Portfolio, OPRE seeks to build on the lessons learned from and gaps in knowledge revealed by these previous and current studies, and identify and rigorously evaluate the “next generation” of employment strategies. The portfolio is comprised of two OPRE projects: the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families (BEES) Project and the Next Generation of Enhanced Employment Strategies (NextGen) Project. These projects aim to advance the evidence base by considering for evaluation a wide range of employment strategies for highly vulnerable populations with complex barriers to obtaining and retaining employment, such as physical and mental health conditions, a criminal history, or limited work skills and experience. BEES is prioritizing state-initiated programs and those that serve adults whose employment prospects have been affected by substance use disorders, including opioid use disorder. NextGen has a special interest in interventions that are market-oriented and/or employer-driven. Together, the projects will conduct up to 22 evaluations. While a majority of these evaluations will be experimental impact studies, a subset will be solely descriptive evaluations. Cost analyses and case studies will also be conducted.

Additionally, as part of this portfolio, OPRE is partnering with the Social Security Administration (SSA) to incorporate a focus on employment-related early interventions for individuals with current or foreseeable disabilities who have limited work history and are potential applicants for Supplemental Security Income. SSA is providing financial and technical support for the evaluation and/or service provision of selected interventions within the BEES and NextGen projects.

The Innovative Strategies for Addressing Employment Barriers Portfolio is being conducted under contract with MDRC with subcontractors Abt Associates and MEF Associates (BEES) and Mathematica (NextGen).

Point(s) of contact: Marie Lawrence, Megan Reid, Hilary Bruck, and Gabrielle Newell