Panel Paper: Using State Wage Data to Support Community-Based Practice

Thursday, November 2, 2017
Gold Coast (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Aurelia De La Rosa Aceves, MDRC

Administrative data can provide baseline and long-term information on residents who utilize a community-based organization’s (CBO’s) programs and services and can be used to shape neighborhood-wide strategies and evaluate performance. However, community organizations and program evaluators face challenges in collecting and using administrative data effectively for program monitoring and improvement purposes. First, data are often not readily accessible to CBOs. Second, even when data are available, they may not exist at geographically specific level that can inform practice in a meaningful way. For example, census tract level poverty rates do not help CBOs targeting specific determine which apartment buildings are in need of outreach. Third, it is challenging to link data to program outcomes, especially in a way that is reasonably tied to the efforts of practitioners.

To address these challenges, MDRC is partnering with the New York City Center for Economic Opportunity to facilitate four community organizations’ access to the New York State Department of Labor’s (NYSDOL) quarterly wage and employment data. This effort was made possible by a recent (2013) New York State law, which allows access to Unemployment Insurance (UI) data for program monitoring, improvement and evaluation purposes, if requested by a municipality or its agent. This work builds on MDRC’s ongoing formative evaluation of the four-year Change Capital Fund (CCF) initiative that supports community development corporations (CDCs) in their efforts to reduce poverty in high-need New York City neighborhoods, by tracking their progress towards overall goals. UI data are considered the gold standard for outcomes and impact information for antipoverty initiatives, and can be collected retrospectively to provide a sense of an individual’s employment and earnings trajectories over time. UI represents a more reliable data source than income or employment reported to a service provider.

MDRC also provides technical assistance to the community organizations as they navigate consent processes and data security procedures, develop research questions that can be explored by the NYSDOL wage and employment data, and analyze and interpret the data to improve service provision. Based on this work, the paper will address the following questions: (1) What is the process for community-based organizations to access and interpret wage data? (2) What technical, conceptual, and management challenges do CBOs face in using wage data to improve program performance? And, (3) What type of technical assistance do community organizations need to address these issues?