Reports on the results of an outcome study, an impact study, and a cost-benefit analysis that examined the effect of social enterprise employment on the lives of individuals with barriers to work.

“In 2011, REDF placed social enterprise (SE) employment at the heart of its five-year strategy to transform how people with many employment barriers transition into the workforce. SEs are mission-driven businesses focused on hiring and assisting people who face barriers to work. In support of its strategy to leverage these organizations, REDF launched a new portfolio, with funding from the Social Innovation Fund (SIF) of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and support from corporations, foundations, and individuals. REDF also committed to conducting an evaluation to support the success of the SE approach and selected Mathematica Policy Research to design and implement the evaluation. The evaluation, which is called the Mathematica Jobs Study (MJS), is structured to address the general research question, How do social enterprises serve individuals with multiple barriers to employment? Its focus is economic self-sufficiency and life stability for SE workers hired from April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013. The analysis looks at participants’ employment as the primary indicator of self-sufficiency, although the study also examines participants’ income and support from government. In addition, the study examines five outcomes related to life stability: (1) housing (most important), (2) recidivism, (3) physical health, (4) mental health, and (5) substance abuse.

The MJS contains four integrated components: (1) an implementation study of eight organizations that received REDF SIF funding in January 2012; (2) an outcomes study of the change in economic self-sufficiency and life stability for SE workers in seven organizations, from the period before they started the job until one year later; (3) a quasi-experimental impact study that complements the outcomes study by offering stronger internal validity (a more rigorous estimate of the effect of SE employment) at the expense of external validity (ability to generalize results); and (4) a cost benefit analysis (CBA) that assessed whether the net value of the SE to society as a whole—which includes the SE workers, the SE business enterprise, and taxpayers (those not directly involved in the SE)—outweighed its costs. This report provides results of the outcomes and impact studies and the CBA. It is a follow-up to the interim report (Maxwell et al. 2013), which provides results of the implementation study” (p.xvii).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“1. Workers gained economic self-sufficiency one year after the SE experience began. A central goal of the SE was to build economic self-sufficiency through employment by providing work experience in the SE and helping workers find employment when the SE job ended…Evidence suggests that the SE experience may have helped workers gain that experience. In the year following the start of the SE job, 93 percent of SE employees had worked for at least one month, 84 percent had worked continuously for at least 3 months, 67 percent worked continuously for at least 6 months, 51 percent worked continuously for at least 9 months, and 35 percent worked continuously for all 12 months” (p.xx-xxi). “2. The SE helped workers stabilize their lives. Results from the outcomes study suggested that housing, the study’s main measure of life stability, stabilized in the year after the SE job began. The percentage of SE workers renting or owning a home or apartment during any part of the past year increased from 49 to 81 percent, and the percentage who reported stable housing (living in a home or apartment that they rented or owned) throughout the year increased from 15 to 53 percent” (p.xxi). “3. Support after leaving the SE is associated with increased self-sufficiency and life stability. About two-thirds of workers reported postemployment supports. Sixty-four percent continued access to employment case management and job retention services, about 44 percent received non-employment case management or other types of services to help them with other barriers to work or life stability, and 11 percent reported receiving some other type of services. Receiving postemployment support was associated with a 21 percentage point increase in the likelihood of housing stability, a $428 increase in total monthly income, and a medium to large decrease in the depression index one year after the SE job began” (xxi). “4. The SE experience adds value to society. SEs in REDF’s portfolio provide a net benefit to society: for every dollar spent by the SE, the SE returned $2.23 (outcomes study) or $1.34 (impact study) in total benefits. Furthermore, taxpayers may have an incentive to support SEs, as each dollar spent by the SEs included in this research generated taxpayer savings of $1.31 (outcomes study) to $0.42 (impact study)” (p.xxii). (Abstractor: Author)