Final Report on a Program for School Dropouts
This report, which completes the JOBSTART Demonstration, addresses issues closely linked to the nation’s ongoing debate about how best to improve the employment and earnings prospects of low-skilled, economically disadvantaged young people, who otherwise live outside the economic mainstream. There is compelling evidence that youths who have dropped out of high school are increasingly unable to find a job, much less a job that supports a decent standard of living. The statistics are stark: In 1992, more than half of all 16- to 24-year-olds who had dropped out of school did not work during the year. For blacks, the figures are even more discouraging, with less than 30 percent working. The results from past studies of initiatives to combat these problems have generally been negative or inconclusive, and there is little solid evidence about what works.
The JOBSTART Demonstration was an unusual collaborative effort to provide such evidence. The demonstration - developed and evaluated by the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) - was implemented between 1985 and 1988 in 13 sites ranging from community-based organizations to schools to Jobs Corps Centers. In each site, 17- to 21-year-old, economically disadvantaged school dropouts with poor reading skills participated in education and vocational training and received support services and job placement assistance. In many ways, this initiative drew on lessons from the residential Job Corps program, which provides similar - though more intensive - services and, in an influential study, was found to raise young people’s earnings and to be cost-effective for taxpayers. Operating funds for the JOBSTART Demonstration came primarily from the Job Training Partnership Act of 1982, which supports the nation’s principal employment and training program for economically disadvantaged people.