Roundtable: What Can We Learn from Experimental and Non-Experimental Evaluations of the Workforce Investment Act?
(Employment and Training Programs)

Friday, November 3, 2017: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Stetson E (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roundtable Organizers:  Burt S. Barnow, George Washington University
Moderators:  Molly Irwin, U.S. Department of Labor
Speakers:  Jeffrey Smith, University of Michigan, Dana Rotz, Mathematica Policy Research, Carolyn J Heinrich, Vanderbilt University and Peter Mueser, University of Missouri

The Workforce Investment Act (WIA) was the nation’s primary employment and training program for poor adults, dislocated workers, and youth from 1998 to 2014. Although the statute called for an evaluation of the impact of the program on the employment and earnings of participants, no study was undertaken for many years. To fill this breach, several non-experimental impact evaluations were sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and others. Eventually, the Department of Labor funded a randomized controlled trial evaluation, and the short-term results were released last fall. This roundtable brings together researchers from the RCT evaluation, two of the teams that conducted non-experimental evaluations, and current and former Department of Labor staff responsible for evaluating such programs. The purpose of the roundtable is to explore the lessons from the experimental and non-experimental evaluations of WIA and to discuss topics such as what the value added is from conducting an RCT rather than using non-experimental methods, whether it is a good strategy to undertake non-experimental evaluations while awaiting findings from an RCT, how consistent the findings are from the two approaches and what factors explain the differences, what additional conditioning variables and outcome variables should be collected, and what other lessons can be drawn for future evaluations of major employment and training programs. The session would be a roundtable, and rather than have individual papers presented, the session chair would lead a discussion of the issues noted above, drawing on the experiences of the evaluators from the represented studies plus the government funder. The session will provide valuable guidance for evaluations of other employment and training programs as well as provide lessons for evaluations of other large-scale national programs.

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