Financial Incentives

A Conditional Cash Transfer Program in Two American Cities

September, 2016

This program spent a little over a dollar to transfer one dollar in cash rewards to families who met the required benchmarks. These rewards produced positive effects on some outcomes, but left others unchanged. While the program benefited participating families, the cost to taxpayers exceeded the economic value of these effects.

Findings from Family Rewards 2.0

September, 2016

A program in Memphis and the Bronx offered cash incentives, coupled with family guidance, to poor families for meeting certain health care, education, and work milestones. The program increased income and reduced poverty, increased dental visits and health status, reduced employment somewhat, and had few effects on students’ education.

August, 2016

Jobs-Plus – a “place-based,” workforce-development model proven to help public housing residents find employment – is about to be replicated across the country. This infographics depicts the program model,  its effects on earnings, and the history of its development over the past 20 years.

What Worked, What Didn’t

May, 2016

Family Rewards offered cash incentives to low-income families to reduce both current and longer-term poverty, contingent on families’ efforts to build up their “human capital” through children’s education, preventive health care, and parents’ employment. While the program produced some positive effects on some outcomes, it left many outcomes unchanged.

Breaking Down Silos to Promote Economic Opportunity

May, 2016

The Change Capital Fund, a partnership of donors, invests in community groups to develop their capacity to coordinate services to meet the multiple needs of low-income families. As these groups work to overcome their tendency to specialize internally, their programs must be open to new ways of aligning their efforts.

Research Directions on Low-Income Neighborhoods and Fostering Economic Mobility

April, 2016

A growing body of evidence suggests that neighborhoods matter for low-income people’s life trajectories. This brief summarizes major recent findings on poverty and place, describes how MDRC is building a body of evidence to inform place-based strategies to address poverty, and suggests some future directions for the field.

A Look at MDRC’s Research

March, 2016

How can financial aid be used to improve academic success for low-income college students? Evidence suggests that providing additional financial support to increase students’ enrollment intensity — either increasing the number of credits they take each semester or enrolling in courses during the summer — can boost credit accumulation and may help them complete degrees faster.

A Look at MDRC’s Research

January, 2016

Forty percent of all entering college students and over half of entering community college students must take at least one remedial course. Fewer than half make it through developmental education. This two-page Issue Focus provides an overview of new research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.

Final Impact Findings from the SaveUSA Evaluation

January, 2016

SaveUSA encourages low- and moderate-income people to set aside money from their tax refund for savings by awarding a 50 percent match to successful savers. After 42 months, the program had sustained its earlier effects, increasing both the percentage of individuals with nonretirement savings and the average amount of savings.

Year 1 of Paycheck Plus

December, 2015

The Paycheck Plus demonstration is testing the effects of a more generous Earned Income Tax Credit-like earnings supplement for low-income single adults in New York City. This brief describes the implementation of the program during the first year and supplement receipt rates during the 2015 tax season.

Final Report on the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration

November, 2015

Performance-based scholarships are designed to give students more money for college and to provide incentives for academic progress. This report analyzes data from rigorous evaluations of six different programs, in six states, with more than 12,000 students. The scholarship programs improved academic progress, including modest effects on degree completion.

Implementation Lessons from San Antonio and the Bronx

October, 2015

Jobs-Plus was designed to raise and sustain the employment and earnings of residents of public housing developments. This report investigates how Jobs-Plus was replicated in more contemporary settings, analyzing the early implementation experiences of a community-based provider in the Bronx, NY, and the San Antonio Housing Authority in Texas.

Testimony Submitted to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance

September, 2015

This testimony presented by MDRC’s Alex Mayer to the federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance identifies several areas as being worthy of innovation paired with rigorous evaluation, including year-round financial aid, Federal Work-Study, and “satisfactory academic progress” in the Pell Grant program.

Interim Findings from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in California

June, 2015

This report presents early findings from a random assignment evaluation of performance-based scholarships targeting college-bound high school seniors in California. The scholarships were completely portable, meaning that a student could use them at any accredited, degree-granting college or university.

MDRC’s Projects in Math for Low-Income Students, from Preschool to College

June, 2015

In our increasingly technological world, developing basic math skills is crucial. What can be done to promote more effective math education? This two-page issue focus describes a number of MDRC projects — from preschool to postsecondary education — that seek to improve the performance of low-income students in math.

Interim Findings from the Work Rewards Demonstration in New York City

June, 2015

This report presents four-year findings from a test of three interventions: the Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, FSS plus cash work incentives, and cash work incentives alone. FSS+incentives improved employment and earnings among participants who were not working at study entry, but none of the interventions had impacts for participants overall.

Results from a Performance-Based Scholarship Experiment

June, 2015

This random assignment study examines the long-term impacts of a program at The University of New Mexico offering low-income first-year students enhanced academic advising and financial aid that is contingent on performance. It finds that the program increased credit hour accumulation during the first two years and graduation rates after five years.

Evidence from Three Studies

June, 2015

Results from three random assignment studies at New York City community colleges suggest that year-round financial aid can increase enrollment during the summer and winter sessions — and that summer and winter enrollment can help students earn more credits.

April, 2015

This random assignment study examines the long-term impacts of a community college program offering financial aid that is contingent on academic performance. Focusing on low-income parents, mostly mothers, it finds that the program decreased the time it took students to earn a degree but did not increase employment or earnings.

Early Lessons from Family Rewards 2.0

October, 2014

This project builds on NYC’s earlier experiment with a conditional cash transfer program to reduce poverty and improve education, health, and employment outcomes. It tests a revised model in the Bronx and Memphis, adding family guidance to modified incentives paid more frequently. Early implementation findings suggest deeper family engagement.

October, 2014

Jobs-Plus — a model proven to help public housing residents find work — is about to be replicated across the country. But to expect similar results as have been achieved in the past, practitioners need to learn from others’ experiences with the program.

Performance-Based Scholarships, Student Services, and Developmental Math at Hillsborough Community College

October, 2014

This program provides an incentive for developmental math students to take their math courses early and consecutively, get help in an on-campus Math Lab, and strive for passing grades or better, in exchange for a modest performance-based scholarship. Compared with standard services, the program's effects are modest but positive.

July, 2014

This two-page issue focus uses infographics to explain a groundbreaking demonstration project that tests the impact of a new work-based earnings supplement, similar to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), on economic and social outcomes for single adults.

A New Antipoverty Strategy for Single Adults

May, 2014

This 12-page brief describes a pathbreaking demonstration project testing an enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income single adults without dependent children in New York City. Paycheck Plus aims to improve participants’ economic well-being while promoting employment and other positive outcomes.

Educational Challenges and MDRC’s Research

May, 2014

MDRC hosted a recent colloquium to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the contributions of former Board Chair Robert Solow. This issue focus summarizes a panel presentation, featuring Frank Levy, Richard J. Murnane, Cecilia E. Rouse, and Ronald F. Ferguson, about current challenges in education and how MDRC’s research can help address them.

Labor Market Challenges for Low-Income Adults

April, 2014

MDRC hosted a recent colloquium to celebrate our 40th anniversary and the contributions of former Board Chair Robert Solow. This issue focus summarizes a panel presentation, featuring David Autor, Mary Jo Bane, David Card, and Lawrence Katz, on the current economic climate and how MDRC’s research can address today’s problems.


Implementation and Interim Impact Findings from the SaveUSA Evaluation

April, 2014

This report describes the early effects of a program helping low- and moderate-income families build up unrestricted-use savings via tax refunds. Individuals who save a pledged amount for a year earn a 50-percent match payment. After 18 months, SaveUSA had increased the percentage of individuals with savings and boosted average savings amounts.

Seven Years Later

March, 2014

This paper presents the long-term effects of a learning communities program. The program’s positive effect on credit accumulation was maintained for seven years, and there is some evidence that graduation rates increased. Economic outcomes are examined, and sobering reflections on detecting effects on economic outcomes in higher education interventions are presented.

March, 2014

This paper examines the quality of evidence regarding the effectiveness of efforts to promote access to mainstream credit, banking, and financial services for low-income people and offers recommendations for strengthening the evidence base of such programs.

Student Characteristics and Patterns of (Un)Affordability

February, 2014

This paper reviews the literature on financial aid and college achievement, examines data from MDRC’s Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration to identify relationships between students’ financial aid and their persistence and academic achievement, and concludes with recommendations for how these collective findings should affect financial aid policy.

A Technical Assistance Guide for Developing and Implementing Performance-Based Scholarships

February, 2014

Drawing on the findings and experiences of two research demonstrations that tested the effectiveness of performance-based scholarships, this guide provides helpful information for colleges and scholarship-granting organizations on this type of aid, which can reduce the financial burden on low-income students while offering incentives for good academic progress.

Early Findings from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in Arizona

October, 2013

College graduation rates for Latino students, especially Latino male students, are lower than the national average. This report presents findings from a study of performance-based scholarships paired with a robust set of student services designed to help low-income Latino men succeed.

The Continuing Story of the Opportunity NYC−Family Rewards Demonstration

September, 2013

Family Rewards, a three-year demonstration, provided cash payments to low-income families in New York City for achieving specific health, education, and employment goals. New results show that the program substantially reduced poverty and material hardship while it operated and had positive results in improving some education, health, and work-related outcomes.

Interim Findings from the PBS Demonstration

August, 2013

Interim results suggest that performance-based scholarships improve students’ academic performance and increase the number of credits they earn. In some sites, the scholarships also appear to reduce student debt. In the one location for which data are available so far, the program increased the proportion of students earning a degree.

Preliminary Implementation Findings from the SaveUSA Evaluation

April, 2013

SaveUSA, a pilot program in New York City, Newark, San Antonio, and Tulsa, offers a matched savings account to low-income tax filers, building on the opportunity presented by tax-time refunds, especially the Earned Income Tax Credit. This 12-page brief offers early implementation findings.

March, 2013

While we know how to help low-income individuals prepare for and find work, too many end up in low-wage jobs and never advance up the career ladder. This policy memo describes what we’ve learned about advancement strategies — both those that show promise and those that don’t work.

March, 2013

Too many students enter college underprepared, drop out, and never earn a credential that would give them access to stable, well-paid jobs. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes some promising college readiness programs that can provide students with the skills they need to successfully complete college, but cautions that more evidence is needed.

February, 2013

America faces a two-pronged problem in higher education: increasing costs and low completion rates. Part of our “Looking Forward” series, this policy memo describes how offering financial aid that rewards academic progress may help students pay for college and complete their degrees more quickly.

Early Findings from a Program for Housing Voucher Recipients in New York City

December, 2012

Opportunity NYC–Work Rewards is testing three ways of increasing work among families receiving housing vouchers — services and a savings plan under the federal Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program, the FSS program plus cash incentives for sustained full-time work, and the cash incentives alone. Early results suggest intriguing positive findings for certain subgroups.

Lessons from Two New York City Community Colleges

November, 2012

Can a scholarship without services improve academic progress? For adult developmental education students, this program encouraged more full-time enrollment during the semesters in which it operated and increased registration and credit accumulation in the summer semester, but it did not increase the average number of semesters registered or credits earned over two years.

October, 2012

In this commentary published by Spotlight on Poverty, MDRC President Gordon Berlin makes the case for creating a more flexible safety net that continues to reward work when jobs are plentiful, provides employment to poor families when jobs disappear, and begins to address the problem of stagnant wages at the low end of the labor market.

The Effects of New York City’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program

September, 2012

What happens if parents and their teenagers are offered cash incentives if the teens go to school and pass their exams? Teens spend more time on academically oriented activities but are no more likely to be engaged in school. Parents save more for college. Surprisingly, teens are less likely to engage in risky behaviors.

Implementation and Final Impacts of the Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) Demonstration

September, 2012

WASC sought to increase the incomes of low-wage workers by stabilizing employment, improving skills, increasing earnings, and easing access to work supports. The program increased workers’ receipt of work supports. In the two sites that eased access to funds for training, WASC increased the receipt of certificates and licenses and increased earnings in the third year.

Bridging the Gap between High School and College in Tacoma, Washington

June, 2012

Getting Ready for Success provides low-income students in Tacoma with academic and social supports and monetary incentives during the late high school and early college years to increase their motivation and ability to succeed in college.

An Impact Study of Eight Developmental Summer Bridge Programs in Texas

June, 2012

Eight developmental summer bridge programs offered accelerated and focused learning opportunities for entering college students with low skills in Texas. An evaluation shows positive impacts on introductory college-level course completion in math and writing, which faded by the end of two years. The programs had no impact on persistence or the average number of credits students attempted or earned.

Lessons from the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project

April, 2012

Many recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other low-income individuals find or keep jobs for a while, but far fewer remain steadily employed and advance in the labor market. This report describes results and draws lessons from rigorous evaluations of 12 programs seeking to improve employment retention and advancement among low-wage workers.

March, 2012

This policy brief, developed by the Urban Institute for the federal Administration for Children and Families, summarizes research on strategies that can increase TANF recipients’ and other low-income adults’ engagement and persistence in postsecondary education and training and boost their earnings.

An Introduction to the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in California

March, 2012

One of six sites in MDRC’s national demonstration, California’s program, run in partnership with Cash for College, is testing performance-based scholarships of differing amounts and durations that supplement existing aid and that students can use at any accredited postsecondary institution.

October, 2011

This brief summarizes results from performance-based scholarship programs in Louisiana, New Mexico, New York, and Ohio. These scholarships can move the dial on important markers of academic success for students, including credits attempted and earned and rates of full-time enrollment.

An Implementation and Early Impacts Study of Eight Texas Developmental Summer Bridge Programs

October, 2011

For entering college students with low basic skills, eight intensive summer programs provided accelerated instruction in math, reading, and/or writing; academic support; a “college knowledge” component; and the opportunity to receive a $400 stipend. Early results suggest that participants were more likely to pass entry-level college courses in math and writing.

August, 2011

This policy brief, developed by the Urban Institute for the federal Administration for Children and Families, examines what is known about welfare recipients with serious barriers to work, what states are doing to serve them, and what research says about which interventions are most effective.

Early Findings from a Performance-Based Scholarship Program at the University of New Mexico

August, 2011

Low-income freshmen received financial support if they enrolled full time, maintained a “C” average, and received enhanced academic advising. After one year, students attempted and earned more credits, received more financial aid dollars and in some cases reduced their loans, and registered for more credits in the third semester.

Final Evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration

August, 2011

The British ERA program’s distinctive combination of post-employment advisory support and financial incentives was designed to help low-income individuals who entered work sustain employment and advance in the labor market. It produced short-term earnings gains for two target groups but sustained increases in employment and earnings and positive benefit-cost results for the third target group, long-term unemployed individuals.

Lessons from Research and Practice

May, 2011

This 12-page practitioner brief offers lessons for policy and practice from MDRC-conducted random assignment studies of five programs that provided earnings supplements to low-income parents to encourage employment and increase the payoff of low-wage work.

Early Impacts from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in New York

May, 2011

Low-income adults needing remediation received a scholarship if they maintained at least part-time enrollment and met attendance and grade point average benchmarks. Early results show that the program modestly increased full-time enrollment and, among students who were eligible for summer funding, summer registration.

How Families Responded to Education Incentives in New York City’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program

May, 2011

Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards was a conditional cash transfer program that provided payments to low-income families for achieving specific health, education, and employment goals. Drawing on in-depth interviews, this report looks at how families viewed the education incentives, communicated about them with their children, reinforced educational rewards, and advanced their quality of life through the program.

Implementing the Fort Worth Work Advancement and Support Center Program

April, 2011

This report examines the design and operation of a program called Project Earn, in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four sites in MDRC’s Work Advancement and Support Center demonstration. The program combined two types of income-building services for low-wage workers — skills training and connection to work supports, such as food stamps, child care subsidies, and tax credits — and delivered them in workplaces in collaboration with employers.

A Synthesis of Findings from an Evaluation at Six Community Colleges

March, 2011

MDRC’s Opening Doors Demonstration, launched in 2003 with six community colleges, provides some of the first rigorous evidence that a range of interventions can improve educational outcomes for community college students. This 12-page policy brief describes the strategies tested, discusses the results, and offers suggestions to policymakers and practitioners for moving forward.

Delivery, Take-Up, and Outcomes of In-Work Training Support for Lone Parents

March, 2011

This report presents new findings from Britain’s Employment Advancement and Retention demonstration, which tested the effectiveness of a program to improve the labor market prospects of low-paid workers and unemployed people. The report assesses whether coaching by advisers and financial incentives encouraged single-parent participants to take and complete training courses and whether training had an impact on their advancement in the labor market.

Findings from the Employment Retention and Advancement Project

January, 2011

This 12-page practitioner brief examines the work, education, and training patterns of single parents in the national Employment Retention and Advancement Project, which evaluated strategies to promote employment stability among low-income workers. The findings support other research in underscoring the importance of changing jobs and of access to “good” jobs as strategies to help low-wage workers advance.

November, 2010

This report from the national Employment Retention and Advancement Project examines the 27,000 single parents who participated in the studied programs to understand the characteristics of those who successfully advanced in the labor market.

November, 2010

This report from the national Employment Retention and Advancement Project demonstrates that low-income single-parent and two-parent families have a roughly equivalent need for services to support employment retention and advancement and that this need does not differ substantially between men and women in two-parent families.

Early Results from the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration in Ohio

October, 2010

Low-income parents at three community colleges in Ohio were offered a cash incentive, contingent on meeting academic benchmarks, to enhance their progress in school. For the first cohort, the performance-based scholarship program increased full-time enrollment and the number of credits attempted and earned, while reducing educational debt.

Evidence from the WASC Demonstration

October, 2010

Although many states are taking steps to offer simplified access to the food stamp program, little is known about the effect this might have on food stamp error rates. This paper studies the effects on error rates in two sites that were part of the Work Advancement Support Center demonstration, which aimed to help individuals in low-income jobs boost their income by making the most of available work supports, including food stamps.

Using Earnings Supplements to Improve Employment Retention and Advancement Programs in Texas and the United Kingdom

September, 2010

Although much is known about how to help welfare recipients find jobs, there is less hard evidence about what can be done to help current and former recipients and other low-wage workers stay employed or advance in the labor market. This paper looks closely at one strategy — providing earnings supplements, or stipends, to current and former welfare recipients who maintain stable full-time employment — that was used at sites in Texas and in the United Kingdom.

May, 2010

This report examines the financial benefits and costs of three different programs in the national Employment Retention and Advancement project, sponsored by the federal Administration for Children and Families, that have increased employment and earnings among current and former welfare recipients.

Final Impacts for Twelve Models

April, 2010

This report presents the final implementation and impact findings for 12 programs in the national Employment Retention and Advancement project, sponsored by the federal Administration for Children and Families. These programs attempted to promote steady work and career advancement for current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers.

Early Findings from New York City’s Conditional Cash Transfer Program

March, 2010

Targeted toward low-income families in six high-poverty New York City communities, Opportunity NYC-Family Rewards offers cash payments tied to efforts and achievements in children’s education, family preventive health care practices, and parents’ employment. In its first two years, the program substantially reduced poverty and material hardship and had positive results in improving some education, health-related, and work-related outcomes.

Seven-Year Findings from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

January, 2010

An extended analysis of Jobs-Plus, an ambitious employment program inside some of the nation’s poorest inner-city public housing developments, finds substantial effects on residents’ earnings a full three years after the program ended.

Will the Past Be Prologue?

November, 2009

In remarks given at a conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, MDRC President Gordon Berlin looks at the extraordinary challenges the current labor market presents to employment policy generally and WIA reauthorization specifically, outlines what we have (and haven’t) learned from research, and makes recommendations for future directions.

Lessons for Practitioners

November, 2009

This 12-page brief distills practical implementation lessons from four programs that help low-wage workers access and retain child care subsidies, public health insurance, the Earned Income Tax Credit, food stamps, and other related government benefits.

An Introduction to the Performance-Based Scholarship Demonstration

October, 2009

This policy brief describes a demonstration launched by MDRC in four states in 2008 to evaluate whether performance-based scholarships — paid contingent on attaining academic benchmarks — are an effective way to improve persistence and academic success among low-income college students. The demonstration builds on positive results from an earlier MDRC study in Louisiana.

June, 2009

WASC is an innovative strategy to help low-wage workers increase their incomes by stabilizing employment, improving skills, increasing earnings, and easing access to work supports. In its first year, WASC connected more workers to food stamps and publicly funded health care coverage and, in one site, substantially increased training activities.

A Research Note for Funders

June, 2009

Targeted toward very low-income families in six high-poverty New York City communities, Family Rewards offers cash payments tied to efforts and achievements in children’s education, family preventive health care practices, and parents’ employment. This paper reviews data on participants’ receipt of rewards and offers preliminary estimates of the program’s impacts on selected educational outcomes during the first year.

Preliminary Analysis

March, 2009

This report presents a preliminary analysis of the cost of operating Britain's Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) demonstration, which is being evaluated though a large-scale randomised control trial. This assessment of costs will become an important element of the full cost-benefit analysis to be presented in future ERA reports.

A Synthesis of Research

February, 2009

Most welfare programs seek to ensure that poor families have adequate income while at the same time encouraging self-sufficiency. Based on studies of 28 programs involving more than 100,000 sample members, this synthesis compares the costs, benefits, and returns on investment of six welfare program strategies – from the perspectives of participants, government budgets, and society as a whole.

Effects of a Performance-Based Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents

January, 2009

This report describes the impacts of a performance-based scholarship program with a counseling component on academic success and persistence among low-income parents. Students who participated in the program, which was operated at two New Orleans-area colleges as part of MDRC’s multisite Opening Doors demonstration, were more likely to stay in school, get higher grades, and earn more credits.

Engaging Low-Wage Workers in Career Advancement

December, 2008

The Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration offers a new approach to helping low-wage and dislocated workers advance by increasing their wages or work hours, upgrading their skills, or finding better jobs. This report presents preliminary information on the effectiveness of strategies that were used to attract people to the WASC program and engage them in services.

A Guide for Practitioners Based on the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

December, 2008

This guide contains practical advice on implementing a program model — known as the Jobs-Plus Community Initiative for Public Housing Families (Jobs-Plus) — aimed at helping public housing residents find and keep jobs.

September, 2008

This report published by the UK Department for Work and Pensions presents new findings on the effects of a program to help long-term unemployed individuals who receive government benefits in Great Britain and participate in a welfare-to-work program, New Deal 25 Plus, retain jobs and advance in the labor market.

July, 2008

Implemented in 1994, New Hope provided full-time workers with several benefits for three years: an earnings supplement, low-cost health insurance, and subsidized child care. This working paper examines the program’s impacts on children’s future orientation and employment experiences eight years after random assignment.

July, 2008

Implemented in 1994, New Hope provided full-time workers with several benefits for three years: an earnings supplement, low-cost health insurance, and subsidized child care. This working paper examines the effects of New Hope on children’s social behavior, parent-child relationships, and participation in out-of-school activities eight years after random assignment.

July, 2008

Implemented in 1994, New Hope provided full-time workers with several benefits for three years: an earnings supplement, low-cost health insurance, and subsidized child care. This working paper examines the program’s impacts on employment and earnings, as well as on family income and poverty, up to eight years beyond the point of random assignment.

Effects After Eight Years for Families and Children

July, 2008

Implemented in 1994 in Milwaukee, New Hope provided full-time, low-wage workers with several benefits for three years: an earnings supplement, low-cost health insurance, and subsidized child care. A random assignment study shows positive effects for both adults and children, some of which persisted five years after the program ended.

July, 2008

Implemented in 1994, New Hope provided full-time workers with several benefits for three years: an earnings supplement, low-cost health insurance, and subsidized child care. This working paper examines the effects of New Hope on children’s academic achievement and achievement motivation eight years after random assignment.

May, 2008

This report presents new and positive findings on the effects of Britain’s Employment Retention and Advancement demonstration. After two years, the program increased employment and earnings for single-parent participants. ERA offered a combination of job coaching and financial incentives to encourage low-income individuals to sustain employment and progress in work.

Lessons from Research on Welfare Training Programs and Two Promising Community College Strategies

February, 2008

This working paper, prepared for a conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, reviews what is known about education acquisition by low-wage workers and highlights promising strategies being tested at several community colleges.

November, 2007

In a speech given at a conference sponsored by the French government on the role of experimental studies in reducing poverty, MDRC President Gordon Berlin described how the results of random assignment studies have acted as powerful levers for changing social policy in the United States.

Navigating Career Advancement for Low-Wage Workers

October, 2007

This report, from MDRC’s Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration, explores how WASC career coaches help low-wage workers understand the complex interactions between earnings and eligibility for work support programs and guide them to make the best advancement decisions possible.

A Counterintuitive Approach to Reducing Poverty and Strengthening Families

September, 2007

In this article in The Future of Children journal, MDRC President Gordon Berlin answers the question: If you could do one thing to reduce poverty in America, what would it be? He explores the potential advantages of expanding the federal Earned Income Tax Credit to all low-wage adults who work full time — whether they have children or not and whether they marry or not.

May, 2007

In these remarks, delivered at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s National Summit on America’s Children on May 22, MDRC President Gordon Berlin summarizes rigorous research evidence showing that supplementing the earnings of parents helps raise families out of poverty and improves the school performance of young children.

Early Results from the Opening Doors Demonstration in Ohio

April, 2007

This report presents the early results from MDRC’s evaluation of the Opening Doors program at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio. The two-semester program offered intensive student advising services and a modest scholarship to low-income students to encourage them to stay in school and earn credentials.

April, 2007

In his testimony before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, MDRC President Gordon Berlin argues that the most direct way to alleviate poverty is to tackle the legacy of falling wages, particularly for men with less education.

Building Evidence About What Works to Improve Self-Sufficiency

March, 2007

This working paper argues for building a stronger base of evidence in the housing-employment policy arena through an expanded use of randomized controlled trials.

February, 2007

This report published by the UK Department for Work and Pensions presents encouraging findings on the early effects of Britain’s Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration. Aimed at helping low-income individuals sustain employment and progress in work, ERA offers a combination of job coaching and financial incentives to participants once they are working.

January, 2007

In a rapidly growing low-wage labor market, the workforce investment system and the Workforce Investment Act should expand their focus to include job retention and advancement services by engaging private employers and to enhance the accessibility of work supports.

Evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement Demonstration

September, 2006

This study for the UK Department for Work and Pensions explores the attitudes of a sample of participants in the UK Employment Retention and Advancement program. This rare employment study on low-paid workers in the United Kingdom offers a foundation for understanding the receptivity of low-paid workers to programs that help them remain employed and advance.

The Effect of Project GRAD on High School Student Outcomes in Three Urban School Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on a variety of student outcomes in high schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; and Columbus, Ohio.

The Effect of Project GRAD on Elementary School
Student Outcomes in Four Urban Districts

July, 2006

This report describes the effects of Project GRAD, an ambitious education reform that targets high schools and the elementary and middle schools that feed into them, on student test scores in elementary schools in Houston, Texas; Atlanta, Georgia; Columbus, Ohio; and Newark, New Jersey.

Presented Before the Subcommittee on Federalism and the Census, House Committee on Government Reform

June, 2006

MDRC’s study of Jobs-Plus, an employment program for public housing residents, offered the first hard evidence that a work-focused intervention based in public housing can effectively boost residents’ earnings and promote their self-sufficiency. Congress may wish to consider introducing Jobs-Plus in additional housing developments across the country.

Early Results of a Louisiana Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents Attending Community College

May, 2006

Funded by state welfare dollars, two community colleges in the New Orleans area offered performance-based scholarships and enhanced counseling to low-income parents, as part of MDRC’s Opening Doors demonstration. These early findings show the program had significant positive effects on academic achievement and rates of retention.

Evidence from the UK Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Demonstration

March, 2006

The largest ever random assignment test of a social policy in Britain is being applied in a demonstration of the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) program. This report, written by MDRC and British colleagues as part of a consortium of social policy research firms and produced for the UK Department for Work and Pensions, examines how well random assignment worked.

Launching the Work Advancement and Support Center Demonstration

March, 2006

The Work Advancement and Support Center demonstration tests an innovative approach to fostering employment retention, career advancement, and increased take-up of work supports for a broad range of low-earners, including reemployed dislocated workers. This report examines start-up experiences in the first two sites: Dayton, Ohio, and San Diego, California.

February, 2006

An evaluation of a job placement, retention, and advancement program for individuals receiving welfare showed some effects — but not consistent or large effects — on employment and retention outcomes during the first two years of follow-up.

Design Principles for a Study on Teacher Incentives

February, 2006

This paper, produced by MDRC and the Laboratory for Student Success at Temple University, describes design principles for a study about the use of incentives to recruit and retain high-quality teachers for underperforming schools.

November, 2005

An MDRC evaluation of Moving Up, a program in South Carolina that aimed to help former welfare recipients obtain jobs, work more steadily, and move up in the labor market, found that the program had little effect on employment rates, earnings, employment retention, or advancement.

Promoting Work in Seattle Public Housing During a HOPE VI Redevelopment

October, 2005

Early success for this ambitious employment program for public housing residents in Seattle was disrupted by a federal HOPE VI grant to tear down and revitalize the housing development.

An Update on the Effects of Four Earnings Supplement Programs on Employment, Earnings, and Income

August, 2005

Four programs that supplemented the earnings of low-income adults increased employment, earnings, and income — particularly for the most disadvantaged — but these effects generally faded after the programs ended.

Six-Year Impacts on Parents and Children from the Minnesota Family Investment Program

July, 2005

While positive effects on most parents’ earnings and income faded after six years, young children in some of the most disadvantaged families were still performing better in school than their counterparts in a control group. And, for the most disadvantaged parents, MFIP seems to have created a lasting “leg up” in the labor market.

July, 2005

Early results are mixed for Employment Retention and Advancement project programs in four sites, but programs in two sites appear to help some welfare recipients work more steadily and advance to higher-paying jobs.

The Opening Doors Demonstration

June, 2005

The Opening Doors Demonstration is designed to show how community colleges can help more low-income students remain in school and improve other outcomes, including degree attainment, labor market success, and personal and social well-being.

The Effectiveness of Jobs-Plus

March, 2005

Jobs-Plus, an ambitious employment program inside some of the nation’s poorest inner-city public housing developments, markedly increased the earnings of residents in the sites where it was implemented well.

Services That May Help Low-Income Students Succeed in Community College

November, 2004

Community colleges can pursue many strategies for enhancing student services, including offering “one-stop shopping,” which provides students with multiple services at the same time and place.

October, 2004

Seattle Jobs-Plus — part of an MDRC national research demonstration designed to promote employment among public housing residents — succeeded in engaging a majority of residents, many of whom were immigrants from diverse parts of the world, in work-related services or supports.

Lessons from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

July, 2004

This report examines how public housing authorities in six cities implemented one of the most innovative features of the Jobs-Plus demonstration: using incentives plans to keep rents lower than they would have been under existing rules as a way to encourage and reward work among public housing residents.

Implementing the Community Support for Work Component of Jobs-Plus

June, 2004

The “community support for work” component of Jobs-Plus relies on outreach workers from public housing developments to help extend Jobs-Plus’s reach in public housing communities.

Improving Services for Low-Income Working Families

March, 2004

A collaboration of MDRC and the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, this report explores how best to improve job stability and career advancement of low-wage earners and increase their household income.

Lessons from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration in Public Housing

November, 2003

From the Jobs-Plus initiative, this report describes efforts to build participation among public housing residents in a program that offers services and financial incentives designed to promote work.

October, 2003

Building on findings that the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) resulted in higher rates of marital stability among two-parent recipient families who participated in this initiative that provided financial incentives to welfare recipients who worked, this report documents MFIP’s long-term effects on marriage and divorce among participants in the program’s sample of nearly 2,500 two-parent families who were married or cohabiting at study entry.

Early Implementation Experiences of Employment Retention and Advancement Programs

October, 2003

Describing the initial experiences of 15 Employment Retention and Advancement programs in 8 states, this report emphasizes implementation issues and focuses on connections among the agencies and institutions that deliver retention and advancement services to low-income workers and hard-to-employ populations.

Evidence from Connecticut and Minnesota

September, 2003

Using data from two random assignment welfare reform experiments, this report contributes insights to efforts to foster economic self-sufficiency in both the assisted housing and the welfare policy arenas.

How Financial Aid Affects Nontraditional Students in Community Colleges

July, 2003

Examining federal, state, and institutional programs, the paper presents a framework for understanding challenges to securing comprehensive financial assistance for low-income working students.

Instructional Innovations That Help Low-Income Students Succeed in Community College

July, 2003

This paper looks at curricular and program redesign strategies currently used by community colleges to speed nontraditional students’ advancement from lower levels of skill into credential programs and to shorten the time commitment required to earn a credential.

Five-Year Results of a Program to Reduce Poverty and Reform Welfare

June, 2003

This rigorous long-term evaluation reveals that building a safety net of financial supports for low-income parents who work improved the well-being of their children.

How to Design and Implement Financial Work Supports

April, 2003

This latest MDRC how-to guide identifies program features and practices that can help states better target financial work incentives and maximize their effectiveness.

Lessons from Jobs-Plus About the Mobility of Public Housing Residents and Implications for Place-Based Initiatives

March, 2003

This paper begins to fill a void in the understanding of residential mobility in low-income communities by examining intended and actual out-migration patterns of a cohort of residents of five public housing developments.

Key Features of Mature Employment Programs in Seven Public Housing Communities

February, 2003

Aiming to significantly increase employment and economic self-sufficiency among public housing residents since its inception in 1997, the Jobs-Plus Community Revitalization Initiative for Public Housing Families created and operated on-site job centers at each of seven public housing developments in six cities across the nation.

An Examination of the Children at the Beginning of the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

December, 2002

Children who live in public housing are commonly thought to be at greater risk of experiencing academic and behavioral problems than other low-income children, but this paper is among the few to explore empirically the characteristics and circumstances of these children.

The Jobs-Plus Experience in Public Housing Developments

September, 2002

Through extensive ethnographic interviews with staff and residents of two Jobs-Plus housing developments in Seattle and St. Paul, this report explains how a range of social and personal issues characteristic of largely immigrant public housing residents can render conventional employment and support services ineffective.

Findings from the Jobs-Plus Baseline Survey

September, 2002

Tapping a deep pool of survey data to learn about residents' connections to the labor market, this report dispels some widespread misconceptions. For example, it finds that even in places with high rates of joblessness, many public housing residents have work histories that are extensive and varied, albeit typically in unstable, low-wage jobs.

July, 2002

The latest report from the Opening Doors project explores how to help low-wage workers move toward career advancement and higher wages by enrolling in and completing community college programs.

July, 2002

Recognizing that welfare recipients who find jobs may remain poor, the “make work pay” approach rewards those who work by boosting their income. This strategy was the centerpiece of the Self-Sufficiency Project (SSP), a large-scale demonstration program in Canada that offered monthly earnings supplements to single parents who left welfare for full-time work.

Evidence and Lessons to Guide TANF Reauthorization

June, 2002

An Introduction to the Employment Retention and Advancement Project

February, 2002

Welfare reform has resulted in millions of low-income parents replacing the receipt of public cash assistance with income from employment. But what strategies will help the new workforce entrants find more stable jobs, advance in the labor market, and achieve long-term self-sufficiency? The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) evaluation is a comprehensive effort to explore this urgent public policy question.

Interim Findings from the Self-Sufficiency Project’s Applicant Study

November, 2001

New Experimental Evidence on Financial Work Incentives and Pre-Employment Services

July, 2001

Can Reform Resolve Welfare Policy's Thorniest Conundrum?

July, 2001

Learning from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

May, 2001

Collaboration Among Agencies and Public Housing Residents in the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

May, 2001

Building Services and Systems to Support California's Working Poor and Hard-to-Place

January, 2001

An Analysis of Welfare Leavers

December, 2000

How to Help Low-Income Parents Sustain Employment and Advance in the Workforce

June, 2000

Toward an Employer-Led Approach to Welfare Reform and Workforce Development

March, 2000

The Impact of Work Incentive Programs

March, 2000

Forty-Two Month Impacts of Vermont's Welfare Restructuring Project

September, 1999

Origins and Early Accomplishments of the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

September, 1999

Early Findings from the Self-Sufficiency Project's Applicant Study

May, 1999

The Effect of Adding Services to the Self-Sufficiency Project’s Financial Incentives

May, 1999
December, 1998

An evaluation of the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), the state’s welfare waiver program, found that the program produced substantially larger increases in employment and earnings among welfare recipients living in public or subsidized housing than among recipients in private housing. This paper examines several possible reasons that may account for these findings, including differences in characteristics between the two groups of recipients, differences in their proximity to jobs, differences in residential stability, which might aid in the transition to work, and interactions between MFIP's work incentives and the public/subsidized housing rent rules. The evidence, although indirect, suggests that interactions between MFIP rules and the rent rules in public housing helped to produce larger employment impacts for residents in public or subsidized housing.

A Saturation and Place-Based Employment Initiative for Public Housing Residents

May, 1998

Connecticut’s Welfare’s Reform Initiative

January, 1998

Implementation of a Program to Reduce Poverty and Reform Welfare

October, 1997

Implementation and 18-Month Impacts of the Minnesota Family Investment Program

January, 1997

Final Report on Ohio’s Welfare Initiative to Improve School Attendance Among Teenage Parents

January, 1997

Welfare-to-Work Choices and Challenges for States

January, 1997

A Summary of the Self-Sufficiency Project's Implementation, Focus Group, and Initial 18-Month Impact Reports

March, 1996
Project Overview

More than one-third of all children under 18 years of age — about 24 million children — live in single-parent families, a vast majority headed by single mothers.

Project Overview

Many U.S. households do not have enough savings to help them manage temporary losses of income or increased expenditures from unexpected events.

Project Overview

The Housing Choice Voucher Program is one of the federal government’s major programs for assisting very low-income families with children, elderly people, and disabled people to afford decent and safe housing in the private rental market.

Project Overview

The New York City Center for Economic Opportunity has selected MDRC and its partners to implement and evaluate a pilot program to simulate an expanded EITC in New York City for low-income single workers without dependent children, with the goal of increasing employment and earnings and reducing poverty.

Project Overview

The Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS) program is the main federal program for increasing employment and earnings and reducing reliance on government subsidies among recipients of housing subsidies.

Project Overview

Beginning in the 1990s, the “Make Work Pay” experiments tested whether offering earnings supplements would increase employment and income and improve family well-being among welfare recipients.

Project Overview

In March 2007, New York City Mayor Michael R.

Project Overview

For many low-income college students, one of the biggest barriers to attendance is cost. While federal and state financial aid is available to help with tuition, fees, books, and some living expenses, students still often have unmet need, particularly if they are from the poorest families or are independent from their parents.

Project Overview

Too many students enter college without sufficient skills in English and math to succeed — which forces them to take developmental (or remedial) education courses. Across the nation, roughly 30 percent of entering freshman students enroll in developmental math or English courses.

Project Overview

Roughly half of college students and close to 60 percent of community college students do not earn a college credential within six years, leaving them with poor labor market prospects in an economy that increasingly demands a credential in order to find a job.

Project Overview

Obesity is associated with poor health and high health care costs and has been increasing in the United States for several decades. It has also been linked to such health conditions as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, strokes, cancer, sleep disorders, and musculoskeletal pain and disability.

Project Overview

The wages and earnings of low-income workers have been stagnant or declining in real terms for approximately 35 years. Nationwide, the labor market-driven growth of the low-wage workforce has become a major issue for both the business community and the public.

Project Overview

Until recently, employment policy in the United Kingdom had been focused principally on helping people who had lost their jobs to find work.

Project Overview

Community colleges, which tend to be accessible and affordable, serve as a critical resource for low-income individuals striving to improve their prospects in the labor market and life.

Project Overview

The federal welfare overhaul of 1996 ushered in myriad policy changes aimed at getting low-income parents off public assistance and into employment.

Project Overview

A long-standing dilemma in welfare policy is that while cash benefits reduce poverty, they can also discourage low-income parents from supporting their families through work.

Project Overview

Public housing developments are among the most economically challenged neighborhoods in the United States. In fact, many public housing residents face obstacles to employment even beyond those normally experienced by other low-income people.

Project Overview

Launched in Houston in 1993 by James Ketelsen, retired CEO of Tenneco, and since expanded to 12 additional school districts, Project Graduation Really Achieves Dreams (GRAD) combines a variety of promising reforms to improve instruction and raise student achievement in schools that serve p

Project Overview

Early childbearing puts teenagers at risk of myriad negative consequences, including single parenthood, unemployment, and poverty. Faced with the economic and emotional challenges of parenting, many custodial teen parents — nearly all of them mothers — drop out of school and turn to welfare to support themselves and their children.