Identifies gaps among rigorous studies of interventions to improve employment outcomes of low-income adults from 1990 to mid-2014 and provides suggestions for future research to improve evidence related to specific populations, geographic settings, and primary service strategies.

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) sponsored the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER)--a systematic review of the literature published from 1990 to mid-2014 on the effect of employment and training programs and strategies for low-income individuals. This brief is one in a “series of briefs [that] offers a synthesis of the findings of ESER for policymakers, practitioners, and officials who seek to improve the employment and earnings outcomes of low-income adults through research-based interventions. This brief focuses on gaps in the research base…from 1990 to mid-2014” (p.1).

“Trained reviewers examined the strength of the causal evidence for each study…then rated each study based on its rigor (not on the effectiveness of the intervention).…The ESER team identified a ‘primary strategy’ for each intervention[:]…the service most treatment group members received and most comparison group members did not.…The team determined the primary strategy for each intervention by having two reviewers independently read the description of each intervention, identify a primary strategy, compare their assessments, and discuss until they reached agreement” (p.2). The team only reviewed studies that used “randomized controlled trials or comparison group designs” (p.1).

Research questions included: “For which target populations, settings, and service strategies is there little or no research or limited high-quality evidence about what works to improve employment outcomes for low-income adults? What challenges do policymakers and practitioners face in learning from this literature” (p.1)?

“This brief discusses limitations both of the interventions studied and the studies themselves and makes recommendations for a research agenda to address these gaps and strengthen the evidence base” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)