Performance Improvement 2008. How Can We Help the Poor Become Employed?


This study examined programs that target low-income individuals, including those who are employed but at low wages, and individuals who receive cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program who are likely to encounter greater barriers to employment. The Innovative Employment Strategies project provided information on innovative strategies for promoting stable employment and wage growth among low-income populations. The key question was which approaches and programs may potentially improve the employment prospects of low-income individuals. Program innovation has outpaced research efforts to identify effective employment strategies, resulting in a range of new approaches and programs that are potentially effective but have not been formally evaluated. With increased pressure placed on the States by the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act to increase the number of TANF recipients entering and sustaining employment, it was important to look at new efforts, and provide this information to States.

Innovative approaches were those that: (1) addressed at least one of the causes of low earnings among low-wage workers; (2) provided an untested intervention grounded in research to date; (3) addressed the specific interests of Federal or State policymakers or program operators; or (4) had the potential to be adopted in other States and localities. They also had other features: strong program design and services; relatively mature programs that had been operating for long periods of time; been operating on at least a moderate scale; or evidence of positive results or outcomes, particularly economic. The study looked at programs in four areas: service-focused employment preparation, employment-based experience, skill development, and income and work supports.

Innovative initiatives combined elements from multiple models and were relatively comprehensive in the range of the services they provided, involved partnerships of public- and private-sector organizations who had not collaborated in the past, were financed through a number of public funding streams, focused on making skill-development programs more accessible to low-income workers and more tailored to employer needs, included strong involvement from the private sector, included case management services, and reflected policies and procedures that originated at the State level.

Report Title: Innovative Employment Approaches and Programs for Low-Income Families, Sponsor: ACF-OPRE, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Federal Contact: Timothy Baker, 202-260-6165
Performer: Urban Institute
PIC ID: 8473

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