@EconMobility published an RCT of English for Advancement (EfA), providing adult English-language learners with language instruction, career coaching, & job placement assistance. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds smallish (7%) earnings gains at 2-year mark, possibly dampened by pandemic. (Continued below.)

Program:

  • EfA, which operates in the Boston area, "provides adult English-language learners with employment-focused language instruction, career coaching, and job placement assistance to help them obtain employment or advance to a better job." Program cost is approximately $5,200/person.

Study Design:

  • The study sample comprised 1,952 individuals - 76% women, residing in US an average of 7.4 years, average pre-program earnings of approximately $16,800/yr. Based on careful review, this was a high-quality RCT (e.g., good baseline balance, negligible attrition).

Findings:

  • Results for the study's primary outcome: Small-to-modest impact on earnings - 7%, or $1,175 - in year 2 after study entry ($18,701 treatment group vs $17,525 control group). See above graph. The impact wasn't quite statistically significant (p=0.09), somewhat limiting confidence it's a true (vs chance) result.

  • The study found possible evidence that the earnings impact was larger (13%) for individuals recruited early in the study - whose outcomes weren't affected by the pandemic - than for those recruited later (impact of 3%). But this was a post-hoc (not prespecified) analysis, so is only suggestive.

Comment:

  • EfA might be a good candidate for replication RCT, to see if larger impacts can be achieved post-pandemic. Disclosure: my former employer, Arnold Ventures, funded this study. Here's the study report.

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