Panel Paper: The Impact of Different Job Search Approaches on Employment and Public Benefit Receipt for TANF Recipients

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8226 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Karin Martinson1, Alicia Meckstroth2, Alix Gould-Werth2, Eleanor L. Harvill1 and Daniel Litwok1, (1)Abt Associates, Inc., (2)Mathematica Policy Research

Job search assistance programs are short-term, relatively low-intensity and low-cost programs to help job seekers find jobs. At a general level, there is evidence that these strategies are effective in increasing employment, but the impacts are modest. However, among the variety of ways in which job search can be implemented (e.g. group, one-on-one, varying duration of activities), there is very little evidence regarding which strategies are more effective than others and much of the available evidence is dated.

To determine what type of job search assistance strategies are most effective in helping Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other cash assistance applicants and recipients find employment and increase their earnings, the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services sponsored the Job Search Assistance (JSA) Strategies Evaluation. Using an experimental research design, the JSA Strategies Evaluation, conducted by Abt Associates in partnership with Mathematica Policy Research, examines the employment, earnings and public benefit receipt impacts of different approaches to providing job search to TANF applicants and recipients in three sites. The evaluation also includes an implementation study.

This paper presents findings from the JSA Strategies Evaluation in one site in Sacramento County, CA. In this site, the evaluation is examining the differential effectiveness of two job search assistance approaches: (1) Career Connections Job Club/Job Search providing three weeks of job search and job readiness activities in a group/classroom setting followed by five weeks of one-on-one supervised job search assistance, and (2) Fast Track Job Club/Job Search providing three days of group job search assistance followed by one-on-one supervised job search for seven and a half weeks. The impact study uses a random assignment research design, where 491 TANF recipients in Sacramento County were randomly assigned over a one-year period.

While researchers are still conducting the analysis, the key research questions are to determine the impact of the contrasting JSA approaches on TANF recipients’ employment levels, speed to employment, earnings, and public benefit receipt. The study will also report on how the two approaches to providing job search assistance were implemented and the key differences between them, including documentation from study participants in the two groups on the types of job search assistance services they received, if and how they found employment, and the quality of employment. The employment, earnings and public assistance outcomes for those assigned to each group were tracked for six-months following random assignment using administrative records and a survey of study participants. The research team also synthesized qualitative data collected from interviews with and web-based survey of program staff.