Issue Focus

15 Popular MDRC Publications in 2019


MDRC posted nearly 100 publications to its website in 2019 – reports, briefs, commentaries, blog posts, infographics, and more – on a wide range of topics, from microfinance to homevisiting, from behavioral science interventions to rent reform, from growth mindset interventions to small high schools.

Here are 15 of your favorites:

A Summary of Results from the MIHOPE and MIHOPE-Strong Start Studies of Evidence-Based Home Visiting (January)

Home visiting provides information, resources, and support to expectant low-income parents and low-income families with young children. This brief summarizes reports from our two national studies of early childhood home visiting.

How Can Community Colleges Increase Student Use of Year-Round Pell Grants? Two Proven Strategies to Boost Summer Enrollment (February)

Summer courses can help college students progress to graduation, but most students do not enroll in them. An informational campaign incorporating behavioral science, tested with and without tuition assistance, increased summer enrollment. This brief presents findings from the Encouraging Additional Summer Enrollment (EASE) project following the reinstatement of year-round Pell grants.

Microfinance in the United States: Early Impacts of the Grameen America Program (March)

Grameen America provides loans to low-income women who are seeking to start or expand their small businesses. Early results from MDRC’s random assignment evaluation show that Grameen participants are more likely to operate their own businesses and to establish credit scores and less likely to experience material hardship.

A Path from Access to Success: Interim Findings from the Detroit Promise Path Evaluation (April)

The Detroit Promise allows the city’s high school graduates to attend local colleges tuition-free. To that scholarship the Detroit Promise Path adds campus coaches, monthly financial support, enhanced summer engagement, and messages informed by behavioral science. Interim findings about persistence in school, full-time enrollment, and credit accumulation are all positive.

New York City’s Small Schools of Choice: A First Look at Effects on Postsecondary Persistence and Labor Market Outcomes (April)

Four years after scheduled graduation, students from small high schools of choice, which have nonselective admissions and serve many disadvantaged students, were more likely to be enrolled in postsecondary education and to be participating in “productive activity” (being in college, being employed, or both) than their control group counterparts.

Streamline or Specialize: Increasing Child Support Order Modification Review Completion in Ohio (May)

In Ohio, the process to modify a child support order has two stages that typically take more than 100 days to complete. In two counties, the Behavioral Interventions for Child Support Services team worked with local agencies to demonstrate that streamlining the administrative process — by eliminating an entire stage — led to a large improvement in the targeted outcomes. Combining a shorter form with dedicated, specialized staffing support for parents also affected these outcomes.

Preschool to Third Grade Alignment: What Do We Know and What Are We Learning? (July)

There is growing evidence that alignment between preschool and elementary school can help sustain the learning gains that children make in preschool. A new policy brief examines two large-scale, multiyear projects seeking to build rigorous evidence about the promise of aligning instruction from preschool through third grade.

Sometimes It Takes More Than a Nudge: Reflections on Running the College Match Program (July)

In this commentary originally published by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, MDRC’s Crystal Byndloss offers lessons from our College Match demonstration in Chicago and New York, which helped college-ready, low-income high school students choose selective colleges that matched their academic profiles, financial considerations, and personal needs.

The Rent Reform Demonstration: Interim Findings on Implementation, Work, and Other Outcomes (August)

This report presents 27- to 30-month impacts of an alternative rent policy for housing voucher recipients in four locations. Voucher program tenure and monthly housing subsidies increased for recipients, and housing agencies’ administrative burdens decreased. Average earnings did not rise overall, but earnings increased in two locations and employment increased in one.

Using Data to Understand Your Program (September)

Data from management information systems, direct observations, and the reactions of staff members can help programs understand themselves, identify areas for improvement, and set goals. This infographic presents examples of how programs in the Building Bridges and Bonds study used data from different sources to gain insights.

Show, Don’t Tell, Part 1: Using Nudges to Reach Program Goals (October)

Physical settings influence behavior, as a group of social service agency managers and staff learned during an exercise in laying out an imaginary high school cafeteria to drive profits, promote healthy food, or maximize efficiency. The October 2019 “In Practice” blog post shows how physical “nudges” can yield better results.

Using a Growth Mindset Intervention to Help Ninth-Graders: An Independent Evaluation of the National Study of Learning Mindsets (November)

One type of intervention to help students navigate the tricky transition to ninth grade communicates to them that their brains can grow “stronger.” This evaluation of one such intervention finds that it changed students’ beliefs and attitudes and produced impacts on their average academic performance.

Evaluation of Pretrial Justice System Reforms That Use the Public Safety Assessment: Effects of New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Reform (November)

The MDRC Center for Criminal Justice Research released a study showing that New Jersey’s Criminal Justice Reform Act is helping to reduce arrests, increase the use of summonses in lieu of warrants, and increase the number of defendants released without conditions.

What Works in Career and Technical Education: Evidence Underlying Programs and Policies That Work (December)

This brief, a collaboration with Results for America, identifies the major categories of career and technical education within the nation’s secondary and postsecondary education systems and describes the existing research on whether these programs are achieving desired outcomes for students.

Expanding Access to College-Level Courses: Early Findings from an Experimental Study of Multiple Measures Assessment and Placement (December)

This report examines colleges’ use of multiple measures to determine whether students take college-level or developmental education courses, a more accurate method than standardized placement exams. Using additional placement tests, high school transcripts, and student motivation evaluations places more students into credit-bearing courses, improving academic results and college completion rates.