Many studies investigate how to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults, resulting in a vast body of research that can be challenging for practitioners and policymakers to navigate. The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER) assessed the rigor of such studies to help decision-makers identify programs shown to be effective for this population. This series of briefs presents some results of the ESER review.

Assessing the Evidence Base: Strategies That Support Employment for Low-Income Adults. 2016. This brief synthesizes findings on employment and training outcomes from studies published from 1990 to 2014 and reviewed by ESER.  ESER’s approach involves a review of select research studies and lists twelve promising interventions that demonstrate a positive impact on employment-related outcomes for low-income adults. These interventions include work-readiness activities, financial incentives and sanctions, employment retention services, and training. For example, the Post-Assistance Self-Sufficiency program in California improved employment outcomes through employment retention services. The authors suggest that a meta-analysis could provide more information on the most effective strategies.   


Work Readiness: Can It Lead to Better Employment and Earnings for Low-Income Adults? 2016. This brief summarizes interventions that use work-readiness services to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults, as described in rigorous studies conducted from 1990 to mid-2014. Jobs First – Greater Avenues for Independence (GAIN) in Los Angeles was highlighted as one of six promising interventions. “For both single-parent and two-parent families, Jobs First—GAIN led to substantial increases in the proportion of clients employed and in the clients’ earnings two years after follow-up.” The brief further suggests that more research may determine whether work-readiness interventions will be similarly effective in different contexts.


Gaps in the Evidence on Employment and Training for Low-Income Adults. 2017. This brief identifies gaps among rigorous studies of interventions from 1990 to mid-2014 to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults, and offers suggestions for future research to provide evidence on specific populations, geographic settings, and primary service strategies. According to the brief, “little evidence exists on employment and training interventions for certain hard-to-serve populations…such as those who are homeless, disabled, substance-dependent, or reentering from prison.” It also cites a lack of evidence on the effectiveness of some commonly implemented employment strategies” including training, supportive services, and subsidized employment, among others. For future research, the brief suggests the need to closely document “the characteristics and implementation guidelines of specific, replicable models.”