Looking Forward Memos


MDRC is dedicated to learning what works to improve the well-being of low-income people. Through our research, we seek to enhance the effectiveness of social and education policies and programs. As part of our “Looking Forward” series, we provide policymakers with memos that suggest ways to make progress on critical issues.


Evidence Matters

Putting Evidence at the Heart of Making Policy

Democrats and Republicans agree it is necessary to build evidence concerning the nation’s social programs. But more should be done to improve the nation’s research capabilities, to embed evidence building in government programs, and to put evidence at the heart of making policy.

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A Bipartisan Way to Make Work Pay for Low-Wage Workers

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) promotes work and raises over six million Americans out of poverty each year. Early results from an ongoing demonstration suggest that expanding the EITC for singles, an idea with bipartisan support, is feasible and can increase employment and income while reducing poverty.

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Using Innovations in Financial Aid to Support College Success

Although most college students receive financial aid, many are left with unmet financial needs and may take on loans or drop out as a result. But promising innovations in financial aid could help students pay for college and accelerate their studies.

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Promising Reforms in Developmental Education

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 Looking Forward memo provides an overview of research evidence in four areas of developmental education reform.

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The Power of Career- and Employer-Focused Training and Education

Even in good economic times, workers with limited education may need help getting or regaining a foothold in the job market. Effective career training programs exist. Approaches that target in-demand industries and closely involve employers can get results, benefiting high school students, adults without diplomas, and long-term unemployed workers.

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Subsidized Employment Is a Strategy for Tough Economic Times and for the Hard-to-Employ

Subsidized employment programs use public funds to create jobs for the unemployed. Research suggests that they can provide short-term income support to individuals with serious barriers to employment or to broader groups during poor economic times — while having positive effects on reducing recidivism, increasing child support payments, or reducing reliance on welfare.

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Making the Most of Pay for Success

Pay for Success promises to generate funding to solve complex social problems while at the same time using ideas from the private sector to hold governments accountable. For the concept to work, though, parties in a Pay-for-Success deal must have some specific skills.

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