Summarizes the demographic characteristics, education and employment history, financial situation, and personality traits of the dislocated worker participants who applied for and enrolled in the Self-Employment Training (SET) program piloted in California, Illinois, Oregon, and Ohio. A random assignment evaluation was employed to determine who would receive SET services.

“The [Self Employment Training (SET)] program is testing strategies to support dislocated workers who want to start their own businesses  as members of the gig/sharing economy. Unemployed and underemployed workers who propose businesses in their fields of expertise are eligible” (p.1).

“An important feature of the [SET] demonstration program is that it targets a narrow population. To qualify for SET, an individual must be a dislocated worker—an unemployed or underemployed worker—and interested in starting a business in his or her field of expertise. This brief describes the characteristics of SET study participants, why they were interested in self-employment, and the resources or circumstances that could support or hinder their success as aspiring business owners. The sample includes people who applied to SET, were determined to be eligible, and were then randomly assigned to either the treatment group (and invited to participate in SET) or the control group (and not offered SET services)” (p.1).

“This brief draws on data provided by SET study participants when they applied for SET.…Because the program [was] ongoing [at the time of writing], it describes study participants who applied from July 8, 2013 to August 31, 2015 (n = 1,595). The study’s final report…will include data on the full sample of study participants, implementation study findings, and causal estimates on the impacts of the SET program” (p.1). “This brief is one of five on emerging lessons from the pilot program” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author)


Major Findings & Recommendations

“Key Findings on the Characteristics of SET Study Participants[:] • The average SET study participant was an experienced, college-educated, middle-aged worker. More than half (57 percent) of participants had at least a four-year college degree, and nearly all (93 percent) had at least some postsecondary education. A large majority (80 percent) had experience working as a manager for someone else, on average for seven years. Participants’ average age was 44. • The principal motivation for applying to SET was to gain a source of income. Among SET study participants, 60 percent were unemployed when they applied. Of these, about a third had been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer. Three-quarters of study participants selected this among their top three reasons for applying to SET. • Many study participants had prior experience with self-employment. At the time they applied, about a third of the SET study participants were already self-employed or had been in the past five years. Almost three-quarters of this group had received some type of self-employment support before applying to SET. • Participants’ financial resources varied greatly. Participants’ median household income in the year before they applied to SET was $32,000—well below the national median—but almost a fifth earned $75,000 or more. Four in 10 study participants had no cash on hand in a checking or savings account, but about a third had saved at least $10,000. • Participants exhibited personality traits linked to entrepreneurship. For example, nearly three-quarters of study participants scored high on measures of openness to new experiences and conscientiousness, personality traits that past studies have linked to the likelihood of starting a business and the success of entrepreneurial ventures” (p.1). (Abstractor: Author)