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Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families (BEES)


  • Many Americans struggle to find and keep good jobs due to low education or substance use disorders.
  • Abt is testing programs designed to increase employment, earnings and economic security.
  • Results will be available later in the study period.
The Challenge

Many Americans struggle in the labor market even when overall economic conditions are good. Unemployment is persistently high for some demographic groups and in certain geographic areas, and a large proportion of working-age adults – about one in five in 2017 – tend to be out of the labor force. In addition, in recent decades broad economic trends have dramatically reduced the availability of good paying, stable jobs for workers with low levels of education. Even people who work steadily often have difficulty making ends meet.

The Approach

The Administration for Children and Families at HHS launched this project to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative programs designed to boost employment and earnings among low-income Americans.  The BEES project has the potential to fund up to 21 rigorous evaluations of promising programs serving those at risk of or receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds, prioritizing evaluations that serve adults whose employment prospects have been affected by substance use disorders, particularly opioids, or mental health conditions. The MDRC-led team includes Abt Associates and MEF Associates.

The Results

The BEES evaluations will include: (1) an implementation analysis that will document how the program operates on the ground and how managers and staff address operational challenges, and (2) an impact analysis will assess the extent to which the program improves participants’ outcomes – for example, their employment rates and earnings. To measure program impacts, the study plans to use a random assignment research design since it is the most rigorous method appropriate for evaluating programs; administrative records and surveys will be used to track participants’ outcomes. The five-year project started in 2017, will have results available later in the study period.

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