Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review, 2013-2018

Project Overview

The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER), launched in 2013 and conducted by Mathematica Policy Research, is a systematic review of the evaluation research on employment and training programs for low-income adults. ESER produced a searchable, public database (employmentstrategies.acf.hhs.gov) and a series of briefs synthesizing the results of the review and highlighting promising strategies identified by the review.

ESER was designed to provide practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and the general public with a transparent and systematic assessment of the research evidence for the effectiveness of programs designed to improve the employment-related outcomes of low-income adults.

To identify the programs and strategies, or interventions, that appear to be most effective in helping low-income adults gain and retain employment, ESER systematically identified, assessed, and synthesized evidence from the existing evaluation research literature.

The review was conducted according to pre-specified standards and methods. The review team systematically conducted a broad literature search to identify relevant studies; screened studies to determine whether they met the criteria for being reviewed; and assessed the rigor of each study’s methods to determine the strength of the evidence they presented. A core component of ESER’s review, as with other federal evidence reviews, involved assessing the quality of the research evidence on different interventions.

Results are presented in a searchable database on the ACF website at employmentstrategies.acf.hhs.gov that shares findings from the review and key information about studies whose evidence is considered most reliable. The website allows users to search for results by program studied, by target population, by favorable impacts found, and in other ways.

Additionally, ESER produced a series of research briefs summarizing the results of the review and examining review topics in greater depth. These briefs

Systematic evidence reviews are a transparent and comprehensive way to reliably review the universe of evaluation research literature and assess the evidence of effectiveness for specific programs and strategies. In recent years ACF and HHS have undertaken systematic evidence reviews in a number of programmatic and policy areas, including home visiting, teen pregnancy prevention, and strengthening families.

Mathematica Policy Research conducted the review.

The point of contact is Kim Clum.

  • The Right Tool for the Job: a Meta-Regression of Employment Strategies’ Effects on Different Outcomes

    Published: May 26, 2017

    This brief uses a rigorous, quantitative approach known as meta-regression to look across all the studies included in the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER) to identify the employment and training interventions and strategies most likely to be effective in improving outcomes for low-income adults. It also identifies which are most effective for particular labor market outcomes and types of workers...

  • Gaps in the Evidence on Employment and Training for Low-Income Adults

    Published: December 21, 2016

    This brief reports on gaps in the research evidence on employment and training interventions for low-income adults and suggestions for future research, as identified by the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review.

    For which target populations, settings, and service strategies is there little or no research or limited high-quality evidence about what works to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults?...

  • Work Readiness: Can It Lead to Better Employment and Earnings for Low-Income Adults?

    Published: November 30, 2016

    This brief discusses 19 interventions identified by the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review that featured work-readiness services as their primary employment or training strategy. The brief describes these work-readiness interventions and their impact on employment and earnings. It goes on to profile six promising work-readiness interventions...

  • Primary Employment and Training Strategies Used in the Interventions Reviewed by ESER

    Published: November 28, 2016

    Most employment and training interventions for low-income adults consist of a variety of services, strategies or approaches intended to improve employment and earnings. Many also include strategies to address other needs of the target population, such as housing. To enable quicker comparison across interventions, the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review identified a primary strategy for each multi-strategy intervention the review examined...

  • Financial Incentives and Sanctions: Can They Improve Employment Outcomes for Low-Income Adults?

    Published: October 4, 2016

    Many programs attempting to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults use financial incentives or sanctions to motivate participants to obtain and/or retain a job. This brief describes the employment and earnings impacts of 12 interventions, identified by the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review, that used financial incentives or sanctions as a primary strategy. It also highlights four promising interventions and their impacts in more detail....

  • ESER Reporting Guide for Study Authors

    Published: October 4, 2016

    This reporting guide recommends best practices for study authors on how to describe impact evaluations of employment programs and strategies. The guide provides recommendations for describing study characteristics, study design and analysis, study data, and sample tables for use in reporting this information...

  • Assessing the Evidence Base: Strategies That Support Employment for Low-Income Adults

    Published: August 17, 2016

    The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review identified, compiled, and reviewed studies of employment and training interventions for low-income adults. The review seeks to provide a transparent and systematic assessment of the research evidence for the effectiveness of programs designed to improve the employment-related outcomes of low-income adults...

  • Employment Strategies for Low- Income Adults Evidence Review: Standards and Methods

    Published: June 26, 2015

    This report explains in detail the criteria that govern the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER), a systematic review of the literature on the effectiveness of employment and training programs for low-income adults. This detailed look includes the criteria for searching the literature, screening studies for eligibility, assessing each study’s strength of evidence, and extracting information reported in the studies...

  • Reviewing the Research on Improving Employment Outcomes for Low-Income Adults - Fact Sheet

    Published: June 26, 2015

    This fact sheet summarizes the criteria that govern the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER), a systematic review of the literature on the effectiveness of employment and training programs for low-income adults. The summary includes the criteria for searching the literature, screening studies for eligibility, assessing each study’s strength of evidence, and extracting information reported in the studies...

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