Implementation and Relative Impacts of Two Job Search Assistance Programs in New York City

Publication Date: April 4, 2019
Implementation and Relative Impacts of Two Job Search Assistance Programs in New York City Cover

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  • Published: 2019


Research Questions

  1. What is the context in which B2W and IJS operated? What elements were intended to be part of the program models? How were the program models implemented? Did they deviate from plans or expectations?
  2. Does the receipt of job search assistance differ between the B2W and IJS groups? Specifically, are there differences in the level and duration of job search assistance, types of services received, and use of job search tools? How did cash assistance applicants in the two groups find jobs?
  3. Are there differences between the B2W and IJS groups in outcomes such as employment, earnings, time to employment, and public assistance receipt? Are there differences between the B2W and IJS groups for other outcomes such as job quality (e.g., hourly wage, work-related benefits, regularity of hours) and motivation to search for a job and factors that affect ability to work?

This report describes the implementation and impact study findings from an evaluation of the relative effectiveness of two approaches to providing job search assistance (JSA) to cash assistance applicants in New York City. From 2015 to 2016, the New York City Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration administered two JSA programs for “job ready” cash assistance applicants: Back to Work (known as B2W, the pre-existing program) and Independent Job Search (IJS, a new program).

While cash assistance applicants in both programs were generally expected to participate in job search activities or search for work for 35 hours per week, B2W had a daily attendance requirement at the program office which offered a range of group, one-on-one and job development services, while those in the IJS program were only required to attend an in-person meeting at the program office once a week. Participation in one of the programs was required during the period the cash assistance application was being processed, which could last up to six weeks, and the application was denied if the participation requirement was not met. The study examined the effects of these programs on cash assistance applicants, including both families with children and single, childless adults, who were determined to be able to work and who might need less job search assistance than other applicants.

Using a rigorous research design, the study did not find a difference in employment rates or earnings during the six month follow-up period. However, compared to the IJS program, the B2W program increased the rate at which cash assistance applications were denied for not meeting application requirements and decreased the receipt of cash assistance and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. While participation in job search assistance services was high for both groups, compared to IJS, those assigned to the B2W program were more likely to participate in group and one-on-one activities and to attend these activities for a greater number of hours.


To assess the relative effectiveness of two different JSA programs in New York City, this evaluation uses an experimental design that randomly assigns job ready cash assistance applicants to the Back to Work (B2W) or Independent Job Search (IJS) program and compares their employment, earnings, and public assistance outcomes.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash assistance to low-income families with children, as well as employment-related services to help them become self-sufficient. Balancing the provision of cash assistance with individual responsibility, TANF requires recipients of cash assistance to participate in a specified set of work activities as a condition of benefit receipt, including job search assistance. In addition, some states and localities require participation in job search activities during the application process to help people find jobs, with the goal of alleviating the need for cash assistance. In New York State, single, childless adults applying for cash assistance also are required to participate in these work activities.

There is strong evidence that JSA services are effective in increasing employment, but the impacts are modest. Many low-income individuals struggle to find and keep jobs, and families remain poor despite the assistance provided. Moreover, JSA can be implemented in different ways—for example, in group classes, one-on-one, or in self-directed activities—but there is little evidence regarding which ways are more effective.

Key Findings and Highlights

Implementation Study Findings

  • Though the cash assistance applicants were job ready based on their employment history and education, earnings in the year prior to study entry were low.
  • Both the B2W and IJS programs operated largely as designed during the study period, and the attendance requirements for both programs were strongly enforced. The B2W program offered a range of activities to meet the weekly job search requirement, with group classes emphasized; and individuals in the IJS program could access these services on their own.

Impacts on Receipt of JSA Services

  • Participation in job search assistance services was high for those assigned to both the B2W and IJS program. However, those assigned to B2W participated in job search assistance services for more hours per week and were more likely to participate in group and one-on-one activities as compared to those assigned to IJS. As a result, compared to IJS, more individuals assigned to B2W reported that they received assistance with developing job search skills and learning appropriate workplace behaviors and other soft skills. Although applicants assigned to the IJS program were required to meet with staff in the program office only once a week, many used the job search assistance services provided by the program office more often than required.

Impacts on Employment, Earnings, and Public Assistance Receipt

  • There was no detectable impact on employment in the second quarter after random assignment (the study’s confirmatory outcome) for B2W compared to IJS. Thus, with respect to this outcome, the evaluation does not identify one program as more effective than the other.
  • B2W reduced the proportion of applications that were approved for cash assistance and reduced the receipt of cash assistance and SNAP benefits compared to IJS. The reduction in cash assistance approvals resulting from the B2W program is due to an increase in the proportion of applicants that were denied cash assistance due to failure to meet the application requirements.
  • There was no detectable difference in earnings or the self-reported characteristics of the current or most recent job for those assigned to the B2W and IJS programs, and the jobs were generally entry level with low wages.


Conducted in Brooklyn and Queens, the evaluation of the New York City JSA programs includes parents seeking support from TANF (known as Family Assistance in New York State) and other adults applying for New York State’s Safety Net programs. (The Safety Net program serves those who are ineligible for Family Assistance, generally because they have reached the federal time limit for cash assistance or because they do not have children.) The evaluation includes both an implementation study to examine the design and operation of the two programs and an impact study using an experimental design to measure differences in employment, earnings, and public assistance outcomes.

The evaluation randomly assigned approximately 2,700 cash assistance applicants to either the B2W or IJS program. The evaluation uses several types of data, including the National Directory of New Hires, administrative data from New York City on cash assistance and SNAP benefit receipt, and a participant survey administered approximately six months after random assignment. The evaluation also included site visits and a staff survey to document program implementation and operations.


Martinson, Karin, Eleanor Harvill, Daniel Litwok, Deena Schwartz, Siobhan Mills De La Rosa, Correne Saunders and Stephen Bell (2019). Implementation and Relative Impacts of Two Job Search Assistance Programs in New York City, OPRE Report #2019-46, 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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