Implementation and Relative Impacts of Two Job Search Assistance Programs in Sacramento County, California

July 10, 2019
Topics:
Self-Sufficiency, Welfare & Employment
Projects:
Job Search Assistance (JSA) Strategies Evaluation, 2013-2020 | Learn more about this project
Types:
Reports
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  • Published 2019

Introduction

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 recipients in Sacramento County, California. From 2016 to 2018, the Sacramento County’s Department of Human Assistance operated two JSA programs for cash assistance recipients who were required to work: Standard Job Club and Fast Track Job Club.

While cash assistance recipients in both programs were generally expected to participate in job search activities or search for work for 35 hours per week, recipients in the Standard Job Club participated in three weeks of instruction on job search and soft skills in a group setting followed by five weeks of daily on-site supervised job search. In contrast, in the Fast Track Job Club program, recipients participated in three-and-a-half days of group job search assistance, followed by seven weeks of independent job search with weekly on-site meetings. Participation in both programs was required, and recipients faced a sanction, in the form of a grant reduction, if they did not comply.

Using a rigorous research design, the study did not find a difference in employment rates, earnings, or the receipt of public assistance during the six month follow-up period. While participation in job search assistance services was high for both groups, compared to the Fast Track Job Club, those assigned to the Standard Job Club participated more frequently in group and one-on-one job search activities. In spite of the more rigorous participation requirement of the Standard Job Club, the sanction rates were the same for the two programs and it did not affect employment or public assistance outcomes.

Primary Research Questions

  1. 1 What is the context in which the two job clubs 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. 2 Does the receipt of job search assistance differ between the Standard Job Club and Fast Track Job Club groups? Specifically, are there differences in the level and duration of job search assistance, types of services received, and use of job search tools?
  3. 3 Are there differences between the Standard Job Club and Fast Track Job Club groups in outcomes such as employment, earnings, time to employment, and public assistance receipt? Are there differences between the Standard Job Club and Fast Track Job Club 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?

Purpose

To assess the relative effectiveness of two different JSA programs in Sacramento County, California, this evaluation uses an experimental design that randomly assigns job-ready cash assistance recipients to the Standard Job Club or Fast Track Job Club program and compares their employment 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.

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. However, JSA can be implemented in different ways—for example, in group classes, one-on-one, or in self-directed activities—and there is little evidence regarding which ways are more effective.

Key Findings and Highlights

Implementation Study Findings

  • Both the Standard and the Fast Track Job Club operated as designed during the study period. As intended, the Standard Job Club program provided a greater level of assistance with workplace behaviors and soft skills compared to Fast Track, but the programs similarly emphasized providing assistance with job search skills.
  • Staff for both the Standard and Fast Track Job Clubs monitored attendance according to each program’s specific requirements, but provided multiple opportunities for cash assistance recipients to fulfill the commitment.

Impacts on Receipt of JSA Services

  • Recipients in each Job Club participated in job search activities at relatively high rates. However, those in the Standard Job Club received assistance more frequently—both group and one-on-one settings.
  • More recipients assigned to the Standard Job Club received assistance with learning appropriate workplace behaviors and soft skills, but there was no difference in the receipt of instruction on job search skills.

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 the Standard Job Club compared to the Fast Track Job Club. In addition, we did not detect an increase in earnings.
  • Though the participation requirement for the Standard Job Club was more demanding, it did not result in a higher level of sanctions compared to the Fast Track Job Club.
  • There was no detectable difference in the receipt of CalWORKs and SNAP benefits for the Standard Job Club compared to the Fast Track Job Club.
  • Recipients assigned to the Standard Job Club reported more favorable characteristics in their current or most recent job compared to those assigned to the Fast Track Job Club.

Methods

The JSA evaluation of the Sacramento County’s job search assistance programs includes parents receiving support from TANF (known as CalWORKs in California). 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 and public assistance outcomes.

The evaluation randomly assigned 493 cash assistance recipients to Standard and Fast Track Job Club programs. The evaluation uses several types of data, including the data from the National Directory of New Hires, administrative data from Sacramento County on cash assistance and SNAP benefit receipt, and a survey administered to study participants approximately six months after random assignment. The evaluation also included site visits and a staff survey to document program implementation and operations.

Citation

Martinson, Karin, Alicia Meckstroth, Eleanor Harvill, Correne Saunders, Daniel Litwok, and Steve Bates. (2019). Implementation and Relative Impacts of Two Job Search Assistance Programs in Sacramento County, California, OPRE Report #2019-72, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Last Reviewed: July 8, 2019