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- What were the programs’ effects on well-being and how did the effects vary over time?
- What are the mechanisms for these effects? Were the effects primarily due to participation in employment or did other factors contribute?
Programs designed to help disadvantaged workers improve their labor-market prospects may have effects beyond improvements in employment rates and income. One possible supplementary effect is improvements in subjective well-being, or how participants feel about their current life situations. Subjective well-being is important because there are social costs related to lower levels of well-being, and because a person’s outlook has been demonstrated to have an effect on his or her future behavior.
The Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED) is designed to investigate the effects of subsidized and transitional employment programs on both financial and nonfinancial well-being. The STED project is evaluating a total of eight subsidized employment programs in seven locations across the United States, all of which aim to improve participants’ long-term success in the labor market. The programs target groups considered “hard to employ” (recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF], people with criminal records, young people who are neither in school nor working, noncustodial parents, and others),1 and they use subsidies to give participants opportunities to learn employment skills while working in supportive settings, or to help them get a foot in the door with employers. Most of the programs also provide support services to help participants address personal barriers to steady work.
1Noncustodial parents are those who do not have custody of at least one of their children.
The analysis reported here uses data collected as part of the Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED), which is designed to investigate the effects of subsidized and transitional employment programs on both financial and nonfinancial well-being.
Key Findings and Highlights
The analysis of STED’s effects on well-being began by examining the variation in well-being associated with participants’ social and demographic characteristics, and comparing the trends in that population with well-being trends among Americans in general. Members of the STED sample were less likely to assess their well-being positively than the general population, and some factors associated with positive assessments in the general population (marriage, for example) had little association with positive assessments in the STED sample. However, the STED programs, which provided employment (and earnings) along with supportive services, had a positive effect on well-being. The impact model indicates that these positive effects occurred both because the programs made it more likely for program group members to be employed (or because that employment brought them increased income) and because of their participation in the program itself, independent of its effects on their employment. The effects on well-being went away, however, after the program-related employment ended.
Each program is being evaluated using a random assignment design whereby eligible participants were assigned at random to a program group whose members were offered access to the subsidized jobs program, or to a control group whose members were not offered services from the program being tested, but could receive other services in their communities. The evaluation team followed the groups for at least 30 months using government records and individual surveys to measure a variety of outcomes such as employment, earnings, incarceration, receipt of public assistance, and child support payments.
Due to funding constraints and other factors, the data collection necessary to support the analysis reported here was limited to selected STED programs. The five programs included here cover three of the population groups STED targeted (noncustodial parents, TANF recipients, and young adults) and a variety of approaches to the delivery of subsidized and transitional employment.
Sonya Williams and Richard Hendra. 2018. The Effects of Subsidized and Transitional Employment Programs on Noneconomic Well-Being. OPRE Report 2018-17. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.