Presents an overview of the main interventions and approaches from 247 rigorous employment and training studies, published from 1990 to mid-2014, to help stakeholders and practitioners more easily identify interventions that may improve employment outcomes for low-income adults. 

“The Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review (ESER) is a systematic review of the literature on the impacts of employment and training programs and policies for low-income people. Sponsored by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) in the Administration for Children and Families, ESER provides practitioners, policymakers, researchers, and the public with a transparent, systematic assessment of the quality of research evidence supporting approaches to improve the employment-related outcomes of low-income adults….

[The ESER team ]…screened for eligible studies to review: those that used randomized controlled trials or comparison group designs. Trained reviewers examined the strength of the causal evidence for each study—that is, they gauged how likely it was that any impacts reported in the study were caused by the intervention being studied, not by something else. They then rated each study based on its rigor (not on the effectiveness of the intervention):

• High ratings were for randomized controlled trials with low attrition —that is, few people were missing from follow-up data collection efforts—and with no reassignment of people or cases after the original random assignment.

• Moderate ratings were for two types of studies:  (1) randomized controlled trials that, due to flaws in  the study design or analysis (for example, high attrition), did not qualify for the high rating but satisfied other design criteria and (2) comparison group designs that were well-executed and established equivalence between the two groups.

• Low ratings were assigned to studies that did not qualify for a high or moderate rating.

The ESER team also identified a `primary strategy’ for each intervention. This was the employment or training strategy used most in the intervention—the service most treatment group members received and most comparison group members did not” (p.1)

“[ESER] reviewed 314 studies and found 247 that rated high or moderate. Those studies tested a total of 80 distinct interventions. Typically, each intervention consisted of a variety of services, strategies or approaches intended to improve the employment and earnings of low-income adults….To help ESER users quickly compare across interventions, particularly in relation to the service strategies associated with those interventions, this brief provides a table that summarizes information about the 80 interventions identified through ESER” (p.1).

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“ESER was designed to evaluate employment and training strategies. As a result, the primary service strategy identified…was always an employment or training strategy, but the ESER team also reviewed some interventions that had a focus other than employment or training” (p.2). The team identified nine primary service strategies that fell within the scope of the ESER review. These strategies are: 1. education; 2. training (i.e., soft skills training, occupational or sectoral training, on the job training, or apprenticeships); 3. work-readiness activities (i.e., job development/job placement, work experience, unpaid work experience); 4. subsidized employment or transitional jobs; 5. employment retention services; 6. case management; 7. financial incentives or sanctions; 8. supportive services; and 9. health services. (p.2-3) After defining these nine primary strategies, the authors then summarize “all the [80] interventions identified from studies that rated high or moderate and the primary service strategies associated with those interventions” (p.3). The authors categorize each intervention with one of the nine primary service strategies listed above. They also note other employment and training strategies associated with each intervention. This summary describes “the process by which interventions and service strategies were categorized for [their online] database” (p.1). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)