Long-Term Effects from the Original Jobs Plus Demonstration: Employment and Earnings for Public Housing Residents After 20 Years


The original Jobs-Plus demonstration program operated from 1998 to 2003 at public housing developments in areas of concentrated underemployment and joblessness. The overall goal of the demonstration was to take a comprehensive approach to increase economic empowerment and mobility for public housing residents. The residents at participating sites benefited from employment-related services at onsite job centers, rent-based work incentives that allowed residents to keep more of their earnings, and activities to promote neighbor-to-neighbor exchanges that support work. The program targeted all working-age residents without disabilities at select public housing developments in six cities: Baltimore, Maryland; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Dayton, Ohio; Los Angeles, California; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Seattle, Washington.

A 2005 analysis by MDRC found that the program produced substantial earnings gains for residents in three of the six sites during the first four years of the program. Those three sites had fully implemented and sustained the program. A follow-up study in 2010 found that the initial effects persisted, with residents in the three sites earning 16 percent more on average than those in comparison sites. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development sponsored this impact analysis to understand the long-term economic mobility and labor market effects of a fully implemented place-based employment initiative for adults and to explore intergenerational effects of economic well-being.

This report examines whether the earlier reported successes were sustained 15 years after the program ended and whether gains in residents’ earnings translated into improvements in their children’s employment and earnings. The findings indicate that the program at the three sites that fully implemented the original Jobs Plus model continued to have positive effects on adult residents’ earnings and employment between 2017 and 2019, two decades after the program launched. Moreover, exploratory analysis found positive effects for residents who were children at the time of the demonstration and are now of working age. By contrast, participants at sites that did not fully implement the Jobs Plus model experienced long-term negative effects on adults’ income and employment.

These findings demonstrate the potential benefits of place-based interventions in areas of concentrated underemployment and joblessness. They also suggest, however, that for these interventions to have these long-term benefits, they must be well-implemented. This report contributes to the growing literature on self-sufficiency program effectiveness and the value of investments in place-based interventions for intergenerational gains.