Research completed since the 1980s has yielded substantial knowledge about how to help welfare recipients and other low-income individuals prepare for and find jobs. Many participants in these successful job preparation and placement programs, however, ended up in unstable, low-paying jobs, and little was known about how to effectively help them keep employment and advance in their jobs. The national Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project sought to fill this knowledge gap, by examining over a dozen innovative and diverse employment retention and advancement models developed by states and localities for different target groups, to determine whether effective strategies could be identified.
Using a random assignment research design, the ERA project tested the effectiveness of programs that attempted to promote steady work and career advancement for current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers. The programs –– generally supported by existing public funding, not special demonstration grants –– reflected state and local choices regarding target populations, goals, ways of providing services, and staffing. The ERA project is being conducted by MDRC, under contract to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Labor. This report presents the final effectiveness findings, or impacts, for 12 of the 16 ERA programs, and it also summarizes how the 12 programs were implemented and individuals’ levels of participation in program services.