Panel Paper: A Multi-Level Analysis of the Impacts of Services Provided By the UK Employment Retention and Advancement Demonstration

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 9:45 AM
DuPont Ballroom F (Washington Marriott)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Phillip K. Robins, University of Miami and Richard Dorsett, National Institute of Economic and Social Research
The UK ERA demonstration was the largest and most comprehensive social experiment ever conducted in the UK.  It examined the extent to which a combination of post-employment advisory support and financial incentives could help lone parents on welfare to find sustained employment with prospects for advancement.  UK ERA was experimentally tested across more than 50 public employment service offices and, within each office, individuals were randomly assigned to either a "treatment" group (eligible for ERA) or a “control” group (not eligible).  This paper presents the results of a multi-level Poisson analysis that extends the pathbreaking methodology developed by Howard Bloom and associates.  The analysis examines the variation in office-level impacts and attempts to understand what services provided in the offices tend to be associated with impacts on time spent in employment and on welfare.  The evaluation model is flexible enough to estimate program effects across a multitude of dimensions, including individual subgroups defined on the basis of socioeconomic characteristics and program implementation practices undertaken by individual welfare offices as well as other welfare office characteristics.  The model also enables estimation of program impacts for control families receiving welfare under the control environment.

With respect to individual socioeconomic characteristics, our results indicate that ERA was especially effective at reducing welfare receipt and increasing employment for lone parents with O- and A-level qualifications, those living in more deprived areas, and those  aged 30 or over.  With respect to office characteristics, the analysis reveals that several such characteristics were found to affect the control environment (outcomes of control group members under the standard UK New Deal for Lone Parents program).  Offices with higher adviser caseloads had control group lone parents that spent more months on welfare and fewer months employed over the five-year follow-up period.  Where offices prioritized help in finding education courses, control group individuals had more months on welfare and fewer months employed.  Finally, where offices emphasized in-work advancement, control group individuals had more months employed.

Most importantly, we find that several office characteristics affected the impacts of the ERA demonstration on lone parents.  ERA’s main design feature was to extend the NDLP program by providing help after employment was obtained.  We have estimated that such retention services can lead to additional impacts beyond those obtained under the New Deal program and can help individuals achieve economic self-sufficiency (by spending fewer months on welfare and more months employed).  Offices that assigned more caseworkers to ERA participants tended to be more successful in reducing time spent on welfare.  Offices that emphasized in-work advancement and in-work support more generally tended to deliver stronger effects of ERA, as did those offices where awareness levels of the employment retention bonus were higher.    On the other hand, some of the services examined (particularly those that emphasize human capital investment rather than in-work advancement) were not found to reduce the impact of ERA on time employed but did not affect the impact of ERA on time spent on welfare.