Findings from In-Depth Interviews with Participants in Subsidized Employment Programs

Publication Date: January 11, 2019
Findings from In-Depth Interviews with Participants in Subsidized Employment Programs Cover

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Research Questions

  1. What led participants to take part in the subsidized employment program and what did they hope to get out of it?
  2. What were participants’ reactions to their subsidized jobs? Did they feel these jobs were leading them toward unsubsidized positions or toward other goals?
  3. How did participants try to obtain unsubsidized employment? What role, if any, did the program play in helping them find such positions?

Subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs seek to increase employment and earnings among individuals who have not been able to find employment on their own. First-hand accounts of participants’ experiences in these programs can inform efforts to improve long-term employment outcomes for various “hard-to-employ” populations.

This study is part of two federally funded multisite projects — the Department of Labor’s Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration (ETJD) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration (STED) — testing various subsidized employment models. These programs targeted a variety of disadvantaged populations, including welfare recipients, people returning to the community from prison, and low-income parents who do not have custody of their children (“noncustodial” parents, usually fathers) and who owe child support. The projects tested programs that enhanced the subsidized job model with case management and other support services, job-readiness training, and job search assistance intended to help participants move into unsubsidized employment.

This report draws on in-depth interviews with over 80 ETJD and STED participants from 11 programs. These interviews provide rich and nuanced information about participants’ lives and social support, experiences in the programs, and employment goals and outcomes.


This in-depth study was designed to provide a deeper understanding of participants’ experiences in the ETJD and STED programs and specifically to explore how subsidized employment helps participants secure unsubsidized employment. By providing a detailed examination from the participant’s perspective of how the programs have helped and what barriers remain, the study can help practitioners and policymakers continue to improve the program models.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Study participants approached the start of these programs with hope; they were eager to be productive and self-reliant, and they were optimistic that the subsidized job would be a stepping-stone to a well-paying unsubsidized job.
  • Participants generally saw value in establishing daily work routines and believed that they were gaining job skills and connections that would boost future employment prospects. They also appreciated job search skills training and other support services, when provided.
  • There were successes; some participants found jobs through the program that they believed they would not have found on their own. The majority of participants, however, could not turn their subsidized work experiences into unsubsidized jobs, and those who did become employed tended to be working in low-wage jobs without benefits.
  • Strategies to improve employment results may include stronger programmatic connections with employers, the reduction of transportation barriers, intensive and tailored job placement, and sustained communication with staff members.


The in-depth interview study followed individual participants over time to capture their views and attitudes as they moved through the subsidized employment programs. Interviewees were selected to mirror the characteristics of all program participants at each site and to provide insight into the different stages of the program. About half the participants were interviewed three times, about one-quarter completed two interviews, and about one-quarter completed one. A very small number had four interviews. Interviewers were in contact with participants for an average of seven months.


Fink, Barbara. 2018. Findings from In-Depth Interviews with Participants in Subsidized Employment Programs. OPRE Report 2018-120. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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