School, Work, and Waiting: The Activities of PACE Control Group Participants

Publication Date: February 8, 2018
School, Work, and Waiting: The Activities of PACE Control Group Participants

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  • Published: 2018


Research Questions

  1. What are control group members’ experiences in education and training programs?
  2. What are their employment experiences?
  3. What challenges did they face with regard to education and training?

This brief summarizes findings from in-depth interviews with 39 members of the control group in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study. PACE is a rigorous evaluation of nine career pathways programs. PACE used an experimental design in which eligible program applicants were randomly assigned to a treatment group that could access the program under study or a control group that could not. In order to accurately interpret impact findings, it is important that evaluators understand the experiences of control group members.


This is one of five briefs that describe findings from in-depth interviews with PACE study participants. The goal of the PACE qualitative sub-study is to gain a more comprehensive understanding of participants’ motivation for wanting to enroll in a career pathways program, their likelihood of success, their experiences with program services, challenges they experienced to completing programs, and supports that helped them succeed. This brief focuses on the experiences of control group members, that is, those who enrolled in the study but were not randomly selected to receive services through one of the PACE programs.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • Over 40 percent of control group members were enrolled in an education or training program, despite being unable to receive services through the program in PACE. Most reported that they were already enrolled in or were planning on enrolling in training prior to learning about the PACE program, and saw signing up for the PACE lottery as a low-risk activity.
  • Although being assigned to the control group was disappointing, only a few reported they put their education plans on hold as a result.
  • Many faced financial challenges, describing their finances as "tight" and reporting that they cut back on expenses while in school. However, none viewed their financial circumstances as a barrier to completing their education.


The research team conducted qualitative interviews with a sample of 39 control group study participants from all nine programs being evaluated as part of PACE. All interviews were conducted between February and November 2014. The research team contacted a random sample of individuals in each program who had enrolled in the PACE study in the previous six months. All interviews were conducted in-person, audio recorded, transcribed into word processing documents, and imported into a qualitative analysis software package. This brief includes findings from interviews pooled across all nine programs, rather than findings specific to an individual program.


Seefeldt, Kristin. (2017). School, Work, and Waiting: The Activities of PACE Control Group Participants. OPRE Report #2017-114, 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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