Design, Sites, and Data Sources
The comprehensive evaluation is structured around three research components.
An impact study: The impact analysis will examine the program’s effects on a wide range of outcomes, including participants’ employment, earnings, family income, benefit receipt, poverty, material hardship, and other indicators of quality of life. It will also assess whether FSS produces different effects for different types of participants across different housing authorities and local conditions. The impact study will draw on baseline surveys, unemployment insurance wage records (for employment and earnings outcomes), housing authority records, and survey data.
An implementation and process study: This component will describe the FSS programs implemented by the different housing authorities in the study. The analysis will examine the processes by which families are recruited into the program (and the evaluation) and screened, the roles and responsibilities of the housing authorities’ key partners in serving those families, the priority levels the staffs and families attach to different program outcomes (for example, shorter-term or longer-term employment, skills building, and financial management), the methods used to market and administer the escrow asset-building component, and the variety of ways in which the programs try to engage participants in self-sufficiency activities. This component will draw on the housing authorities’ program management information systems and reports on specified performance indicators, field observations, and interviews with staff members and participants.
A cost-benefit study: This study will compare the costs of operating the FSS program with the economic benefits it produces. MDRC will calculate the costs of alternative services that people in the control group receive on their own (for example, education or training courses), and thereby estimate the net government expenditure on employment-related services for program participants. Survey data will permit a full accounting of the program’s effects on economic outcomes, which will in turn help determine whether the government and taxpayers experience a positive “return on investment,” and whether participants in the program are better off economically after other effects are taken into account, such as losses of certain transfer benefits and increases in tax payments and work-related expenses.
Voucher holders from 18 housing authorities across the country are participating in this evaluation:
- Housing Authority of the County of Alameda
- Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles
- Housing Authority of the County of Riverside
- Orange County Housing Authority
- Deerfield Beach Housing Authority
- Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale
- Baltimore County Office of Housing
- Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County
- Housing Authority of Kansas City, Missouri
- Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority
- Jersey City Housing Authority
- Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority
- Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority
- Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority
- Dallas Housing Authority
- Fort Worth Housing Authority
- Houston Housing Authority
- Tarrant County Housing Assistance Office