Evaluating Reemployment and Eligibility Assessments
- Policymakers want to move the unemployed into the workforce.
- The evaluation was one of the largest random assignment studies.
- The project cut time on unemployment insurance and increased wages.
The goals of the Department of Labor’s Reemployment and Eligibility Assessment (REA) program were to address the reemployment needs of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claimants and prevent and detect improper payments. Abt Associates conducted a study of 250,000 UI claimants to determine the impact of the low-intensity program, which involved a few hours of group engagement and a few hours of one-on-one counseling. The cost generally was less than $100 per claimant.
This REA evaluation is among the largest random assignment studies of a social program ever conducted in the United States. Nearly every REA-eligible UI claimant in the four participating states during the study intake period was randomized. Despite this highly inclusive design, the resulting sample sizes are only borderline sufficient to address some of the research questions. This appears to be because—consistent with the low intensity of the intervention—impacts are small. Abt previously conducted an implementation evaluation.
The program cut the time people spend drawing UI by an average of 1.3 weeks and increased earnings by $465 in the first year, or two percent of wages in the control group. About half of the decline in claimants represented an increase in work. The other half did not receive UI, but were not working. State responses to failure to attend required REA meetings appear to be an important factor in the drop in UI weeks. The REA program has been replaced by the Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment Program (RESEA). Our study will inform the redesign of RESEA program and the evalulation design.