From Theory to Practice (T2P)


Many federal employment and human service interventions are designed to have long-term effects, yet most evaluations end after only a few years, before the story is fully known. The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (CEP), established in 2016, produced a report in 2017 calling for greater use of rigorous evidence from random assignment studies and good models for accessing administrative data to better understand the long-term effectiveness of these programs. Many of the CEP's recommendations were incorporated into the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018, which calls on government agencies to build the infrastructure for more widespread use of administrative data.

The “From Theory to Practice” (T2P) project, launched in 2019, seeks to build on those recommendations and expand the use of administrative records to support evidence building for the long-term outcomes of employment and human services programs. The T2P project is sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The project follows up on a prior OPRE-sponsored project, Assessing Options to Evaluate Long-Term Outcomes Using Administrative Data: Identifying Targets of Opportunity, which assessed the feasibility of linking program evaluation records to administrative data for selected major employment-related evaluations.

Agenda, Scope, and Goals

The T2P project will develop specific products to expand the use of administrative data in analyzing long-term outcomes of federal employment and human services programs. The products include (1) a guide to assist researchers in linking program evaluation data to administrative data to examine long-term outcomes, and (2) a memo about the potential impacts of data linking on the quality, strength, and representativeness of such data when used for research purposes. Future work will entail designing and carrying out analyses of long-term outcomes of the National Evaluation of Welfare-to-Work Study (NEWWS).

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

The T2P project is accessing administrative data through the U.S. Census Bureau’s Federal Statistical Research Data Centers infrastructure. The project team is working to link data from the NEWWS to administrative data holdings maintained by the Census Bureau.