4.2.1 New Survey of Employers or Intermediaries
A survey is the most practical way to obtain quantitative data to support systematic comparisons of practices used by employers and intermediaries around the country. At present, Holzer's survey of employers and Abt Associates' survey of intermediaries are the only sources of quantitative data on employer and intermediary practices regarding TANF recipients.
A new survey of employers and labor market intermediaries would be valuable for two important reasons.
- It could cover new ground. Holzer's survey addressed only employers and Abt Associates' survey focused on intermediaries. Neither focused on the intersection of the two that is, on when and how particular employment functions were delegated to intermediaries. These two surveys are the only ones to address labor demand issues specifically for TANF recipients. They cover many, but far from all of the issues discussed in this report. In particular, the attention given to employer practices in managing TANF recipients and other low-wage workers after they were hired was very limited.
- If administered relatively quickly (while labor market conditions are weaker than during the 1990s), a new survey could obtain more representative information on employers and intermediaries. Holzer's survey data, as well as many of the other datasets used in studies reviewed in this report, were collected in the late 1990s, a period with one of the tightest labor markets in history. The survey was also limited in geographic coverage (three Midwestern cities and Los Angeles).
As explained in the next chapter, a new survey could use several alternative sample frames and could concentrate on different substantive issues. A single survey could be administered to a sample of all employers, perhaps stratified in terms of employer size, location, or other factors. Alternatively, the survey could be supplemented by in-depth interviews with a subset of employers, such as those that regularly hire TANF recipients or those that have relationships with a particular set of labor market intermediaries. A survey could also be conducted of administrators from the labor market intermediaries working with employers that are also being interviewed.
The key advantage of a new survey is that it could be designed to collect specific types of information of interest, such as data on labor market intermediary practices or employer practices used in managing TANF workers. The key disadvantages are cost (up to several million dollars) and the length of time required before reporting findings. As discussed in the next chapter, the cost of a survey would depend on factors such as the sample size, the methods used to administer the survey, the response rate, whether or not secondary interviewing is done, and how the survey data are analyzed.
4.2.2 New Systematic Case Studies
Qualitative data on the practices used by employers and intermediaries could be collected in new case studies. Existing case studies typically have addressed small groups of employers or intermediaries. Sometimes the studies have focused on a single organization. Because the studies have used different approaches and applied different criteria, it is difficult to draw wide-ranging conclusions from this qualitative research.
Given the need for systematic comparisons, it is important that such studies collect consistent information on specific practices among varied employers and intermediaries. This would require the use of consistent definitions and field research methods across a representative group of employer and intermediary settings.
The two chief advantages of such case studies, compared to other types of research, are that they could explore issues in much more depth (and receive input from a greater number of employer or intermediary informants), and respond better to issues encountered after the research begins. This greater depth of information comes at a cost a small sample size that cannot be subjected to statistical analysis. The cost of a case study project depends on its features.
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