The Innovative Employment Strategies project, conceived and funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (HHS/ACF/OPRE), is designed to provide information on innovative strategies for promoting stable employment and wage growth among low-income populations. The project seeks to identify directions for future programmatic and evaluation development by building on key lessons from research to date in this area and from the experiences of operational programs.
Over the past three decades, a substantial amount of research has been undertaken on how to move low-income individuals and those on welfare or at risk of dependency into the labor market, how to help them remain employed, and how to assist them in career advancement and wage growth. This cumulative body of research has resulted in a knowledge base about programmatic strategies that are effective in achieving these goals and those that are not. This research also suggests future directions for policies and programs that warrant additional examination but remain untested. At the same time, program innovation has outpaced research efforts to identify effective employment strategies, resulting in a range of new approaches and programs that are potentially effective but have not yet been formally evaluated.
Based on past research and continuing innovations, this project identifies approaches and programs that could potentially improve the employment prospects for low-income individuals. For this project, we define approach as a type of intervention. By program, we mean a specific initiative that is an example of a particular approach. We examine approaches and programs that target low-income individuals, including those who are employed but at low wages, as well as individuals who receive cash assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, who are likely to have greater barriers to employment. Because of the wide range of approaches and programs that exist, criteria were developed to select those highlighted as “innovative.” (author abstract)