HHS/ACF published an excellent summary of results of 10 RCTs of job training programs for low-income adults, funded under HHS’s “PACE” & “HPOG 1.0” initiatives. Quick take: High-quality RCTs find no earnings impacts for 9 programs & large impacts for 1 program (continued below).

Programs:

  • The 10 programs that were tested represent a range of job training strategies within a "career pathways" framework (in which training is "organized as a series of manageable & well-articulated steps accompanied by strong supports & connections to employment").

Study Designs:

  • The programs were evaluated in sizable RCTs, with samples ranging from 499 to 13,802 individuals per study. Earnings impacts were measured over 6 years after program entry.

Findings:

  • The graphs above show the earnings gains for the treatment vs control group in each of the 10 programs. As you can see, 9 programs had no discernible impact on earnings.

  • There was one clear success, however, which I've previously summarized: the Year Up program ("High-quality RCT with blockbuster results: long-term earnings gains of 30% ($8,000/year").

Comment:

  • This pattern - 1 meaningful positive impact out of 10 - is not atypical: Unfortunately, many programs don't work. A similar pattern occurs in other fields such as medicine and business: When new treatments or strategies are tested in RCTs, only about 10-20% are found effective.

  • All of which underscores the need to test many different approaches in order to identify truly effective programs (like Year Up), & then to focus government funds on scaling these exceptional programs so as to benefit many thousands. Here's the HHS/ACF/OPRE report.

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