Many Americans struggle in the labor market even when overall economic conditions are good. Unemployment is persistently high for some demographic groups and in certain geographic areas, and a large proportion of working-age adults — about one in five in 2017 — tend to be out of the labor force. In recent decades broad economic trends have dramatically reduced the availability of well-paying, stable jobs for workers with low levels of education. Even people who work steadily often have difficulty making ends meet.
In this context, in 2017 the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families (BEES) project to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative programs designed to boost employment and earnings among low-income Americans. Intended to build on previous research on the effectiveness of various employment strategies, the BEES project has the potential to fund up to 21 rigorous evaluations of promising programs serving recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or other, similarly low-income families. BEES will make a priority of evaluations of programs that are initiated by states and programs that serve adults whose employment prospects have been affected by opioid dependency, abuse of other substances, or mental health conditions. The goal of the project is to strengthen ACF’s understanding of evidence-supported programs that are effective in improving employment and economic security.
The project is being conducted by MDRC, along with Abt Associates and MEF Associates.