MDRC in the News

Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s Middle Class Strategies

Forbes

01/2020

Strengthening the middle class is a main meme of this Democratic presidential race. All of the candidates emphasize they will “make the economy work for more Americans.” (Who can be against that?)

Mike Bloomberg, though, is the one presidential candidate who has an extensive record of executive action in this area. During his time as Mayor of New York, 2002-2013, Bloomberg launched a series of initiatives to reduce the poverty rate, raise the incomes of lower-wage workers, and promote job mobility. It’s worth taking a look at three of these initiatives: the results and lessons they suggest for policy going forward, and how Bloomberg’s approaches differ from those of other candidates and office holders…

…The first initiative involves Bloomberg and the remaking of New York’s welfare system…

…Second, Bloomberg required a careful measurement of results and honest accounting. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC), the nation’s premier non-partisan evaluation firm, was brought on board, and as James Riccio of MDRC notes, told to “let the chips fall where they may”. MDRC used a randomized controlled trial, and studied roughly 6000 low income single adults for three years after enrollment. MDRC’s evaluation was generally positive, but it also highlighted the program limitations (including only modest increases in employment rates)…

…WorkAdvance, a third Bloomberg initiative, involved sector-based job training. WorkAdvance enrolled workers earning below $15 an hour, and provided training tailored to specific sectors: information technology, environmental remediation., transportation, and health care. The training was augmented by best practices in intensive screening, career readiness services, placement services and retention services.

WorkAdvance, operating as a pilot from 2011-2013, is well known among job training professionals, for several reasons. Though sector-based training has been a theme in the job training for several decades, WorkAdvance was one of the largest and most carefully tracked sector efforts. 2,564 individuals were enrolled (half to the WorkAdvance group and half to a control group) in four sites across the country, including Per Scholas, the information technology job training program in the Bronx. Like Paycheck Plus, the WorkAdvance impacts were monitored by a third party evaluator (again MDRC), and made available to training professionals and the public.

The results were uneven among training sites, but the better programs, like Per Scholas, showed the possibilities with sector training when an agency has the strong employer ties and deep knowledge of a sector. Through his Bloomberg Philanthropies, Bloomberg has continued to fund sector-based training that is rooted in these strong employer ties…

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