MyGoals for Employment Success is a new workforce program intended to help recipients of federal housing subsidies who are not employed find work, build careers, and advance toward greater self-sufficiency. The program incorporates an innovative employment coaching model that is informed by current literature in behavioral psychology on executive functioning skills and their relevance to economic mobility.
With an initial grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and additional support from other private foundations, and in partnership with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and the Houston Housing Authority, the MyGoals demonstration project is rigorously testing a coaching and incentives program that has the potential to improve substantially upon the impacts of other employment-related initiatives, not only for subsidized tenants, but also for other groups of highly disadvantaged adults.
Although it has broader relevance, the focus of MyGoals on recipients of federal housing subsidies, including Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers families and public housing residents, reflects the fact that subsidized tenants are among the poorest and most disadvantaged families in America. Housing subsidies are sometimes also depicted as a “work support,” with the expectation that stable housing makes it easier to find a job and remain employed. Yet, several rigorous studies have found that housing subsidies by themselves do not improve average employment rates and earnings for low-income adults. Other studies show, however, that housing subsidies can be used effectively as a “platform” for employment and that certain work-focused interventions can improve labor market outcomes for individuals receiving those subsidies. Still, such evidence is limited, and there are no examples of interventions producing earnings gains that are big enough to help participants exit the housing subsidy system and other government transfer programs. It is thus important to experiment with bolder approaches.