Evidence First: MDRC Podcasts


Policymakers talk about solutions, but which ones really work? Join Therese Leung as she talks with experts about the best evidence available on education and social programs that serve low-income people.

Therese Leung is the Associate Director of External Affairs where she helps lead MDRC’s outreach to Congress, federal agencies, advocacy organizations, and think tanks. Therese used to work as an advisor to the Committee on Education and Labor in the House of Representatives and at the Office of Management and Budget in Washington, DC.


Using “Nudges” to Improve Social Programs

Can small changes based on the insights of behavioral science improve the effectiveness of social programs?

Research has shown that small changes in the environment can facilitate behaviors and decisions that are in people’s best interest. For example, a change in the way messages or requirements are worded may increase the likelihood that program participants make positive choices. However, there has been relatively little exploration of the potential application of this science to complex, large-scale human services programs. With funding from the Administration for Children and Families, MDRC has been testing low-cost behavioral science interventions that can make programs more effective and, ultimately, improve the well-being of low-income children, adults, and families.

Join Therese Leung as she talks to three guests about MDRC’s work in behavioral science.



Keeping Girls Out of the Justice System

Girls are making up a larger share of the juvenile justice system than ever before. One program that’s trying to address this issue is the PACE Center for Girls in Florida.

The PACE program is unique — a juvenile justice prevention program that recognizes that the path to justice involvement for girls differs greatly from boys and provides treatment and services with the needs of girls in mind. With locations throughout the state, PACE is probably the largest and most well-established gender responsive prevention program of its kind. MDRC is conducting an ongoing evaluation to understand the effect PACE can have on at-risk girls and their education, delinquency, risky behavior, and mental health, among other things.

Join Therese Leung as she talks with three guests about the PACE program and the MDRC study.



Supporting the Transition to Adulthood

How do young adults fare after they age out of the foster care or juvenile justice systems? And are there services that can help these young people make a successful transition to adulthood?

With funding from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, MDRC just released results from an evaluation of the Transitional Living Program (now called YVLifeSet) run by the organization Youth Villages. The program provides intensive, individualized, and clinically focused case management, support, and counseling. This is one of the few rigorously studied programs in this area and the first to find positive results for young adults across a wide range of outcomes, including earnings, housing stability, and economic well-being. 

Join Therese Leung as she talks to Erin Valentine, a researcher at MDRC, about the evaluation.



Tackling Youth Unemployment

What’s worked to help disadvantaged youth get jobs? And how can we get more employers actively engaged in this issue?

Farhana Hossain recently coauthored a report, Toward a Better Future: Evidence on Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Youth in the United States, that reviews labor market trends and research on employment-related programs for youth over the past 30 years. The Great Recession took a toll on the already dim economic prospects of low-income 16- to 24-year-olds who face structural barriers to employment. The evidence suggests that the involvement of employers in devising education, training, and work experiences that meet labor market demands should be a key component of any policy response.

Join Therese Leung as she talks with Farhana about the problem of youth unemployment.