Sustained Earnings Gains for Residents in a Public Housing Jobs Program

Seven-Year Findings from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration

The Jobs-Plus demonstration tested whether a program that combined employment and training services, new rent rules to “make work pay,” and neighbor-to-neighbor outreach centering on work could make a difference in the economic prospects of public housing residents. Jobs-Plus operated in six housing developments across the country from 1998 to 2003, with the program model in place at most sites by 2000. A 2005 MDRC report showed that the program produced substantial earnings gains for residents in three of the six sites during the first four years after the program rolled out.

This policy brief provides findings from a new analysis that extends the follow-up to seven years — three years after the program ended — for the three sites with positive effects. Those sites had fully implemented and sustained all three program components; thus, they offer the best test of the Jobs-Plus concept. The goal of the extended analysis was to determine whether their positive effects would continue after the program ended. The longer-term results are striking: in each of those sites, the effects did endure. When the results are combined, they show that the Jobs-Plus model in those locations caused a 16 percent increase in average annual earnings over the full seven years (an average gain of $1,300 per year) for nondisabled, working-age public housing residents. Moreover, the earnings gains, which were large while Jobs-Plus operated, continued during each of the three years after the demonstration ended. And during both the program and post-program periods, the effects were found for many different kinds of residents. These robust, long-term findings suggest that Jobs-Plus, when properly implemented, offers a feasible and effective way for the nation’s public housing system to move beyond its core function of providing housing subsidies to take on another important role — serving as a platform for work.

The success of Jobs-Plus also implies that there is untapped potential for the housing system — working with institutional partners — to increase the earnings of the people who depend on it for housing assistance. The current economic crisis may make it more difficult to exploit that potential, but the positive outcomes that Jobs-Plus has thus far generated make it an initiative worth considering even during the hard times — times when it is critical to invest public dollars in programs that have a good chance of making a difference. And, in fact, versions of Jobs-Plus have recently been launched in New York City: by the Center for Economic Opportunity and New York City Housing Authority at Jefferson Houses Public Housing Development in East Harlem and by the East River Development Alliance in Long Island City.

For more information about creating a Job-Plus program, see Helping Public Housing Residents Find and Keep Jobs: A Guide for Practitioners Based on the Jobs-Plus Demonstration.

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A public-private partnership, Jobs-Plus was designed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Rockefeller Foundation, and MDRC. The Jobs-Plus funding consortium, which was led by HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation, also included the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Labor, The Joyce Foundation, The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Inc., Northwest Area Foundation, The Stuart Foundation, BP, and Washington Mutual Foundation.

Riccio, James. 2010. “Sustained Earnings Gains for Residents in a Public Housing Jobs Program.” New York: MDRC.