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Papers Sponsored by Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA)


ETA was but one of several partners that supported program evaluations sponsored by HHS, which produced several reports by HHS evaluation contractor MDRC including: Career Academies, Work Advancement and Support Centers, Jobs-Plus, Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ, Employment and Retention and Advancement and Opening Doors. In addition, a paper was done on Center for Employment and the Challenge of Helping Low-Income Fathers Support their Children. These reports are also publically available from HHS.

Career Academies

General Abstract:  Established more than 30 years ago, Career Academies have become a widely used high school reform initiative that aims to keep students engaged in school and prepare them for successful transitions to postsecondary education and employment.  Typically serving between 150 and 200 students from grades 9 or 10 through grade 12, Career Academies are organized as small learning communities within schools, combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme, and establish partnerships with local employers to provide work-based learning opportunities.  There are estimated to be more than 2,500 Career Academies operating around the country.

  1. Career Academies: Long-Term Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes, Educational Attainment, and Transitions to Adulthood by James J. Kemple (2008)

    Specific Abstract:  Eight-year findings on Career Academies - a popular high school reform that combines academics with career development opportunities and shows that the programs produced sustained employment and earnings gains, particularly among young men.  Career Academy participants were also more likely to be living independently with children and a spouse or a partner.

  2. Career Academies: Impacts on Labor Market Outcomes and Educational Attainment by James J. Kemple (2004)

    Specific Abstract:  Career Academies produced substantial and sustained improvements in earnings for young men after high school, without limiting opportunities to attend college.


Work Advancement and Support Center Demonstration

General Abstract:  The Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration was an innovative program designed to increase the incomes of low-wage workers. The program offered participating workers intensive employment retention and advancement services, including career coaching and access to skills training. It also offered them easier access to work supports, in an effort to increase their incomes in the short run and help stabilize their employment. Finally, both services were offered in one location - in existing One-Stop Career Centers created by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) of 1998 - and by co-located teams of workforce and welfare staff. Services were provided to workers for two years between 2005 and 2010, and the program operated in three sites across the country: Bridgeport, Connecticut; Dayton, Ohio; and San Diego, California.

  1. Strategies to Help Low-Wage Workers Advance: Implementation and Final Impacts of the Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) Demonstration by Cynthia Miller, Mark van Dok, Betsy L. Tessler, and Alexandra Pennington (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  WASC sought to increase the incomes of low-wage workers by stabilizing employment, improving skills, increasing earnings, and easing access to work supports. The program increased workers' receipt of work supports. In the two sites that eased access to funds for training, WASC increased the receipt of certificates and licenses and increased earnings in the third year. The Employment and Training administration at the Department of Labor was the primary sponsor of this demonstration. Many foundations and other federal agencies joined the project.

  2. Career Advancement and Work Support Services on the Job: Implementing the Fort Worth Work Advancement and Support Center Program by Caroline Schultz and David Seith (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  This report examines the design and operation of a program called Project Earn, in Fort Worth, Texas, one of four sites in MDRC's Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration. The program combined two types of income-building services for low-wage workers - skills training and connection to work supports, such as food stamps, child care subsidies, and tax credits- and delivered them in workplaces in collaboration with employers.

  3. Strategies to Help Low-Wage Workers Advance: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) Demonstration by Cynthia Miller, Betsy L. Tessler, and Mark Van Dok (2009)

    Specific Abstract:  WASC is an innovative strategy to help low-wage workers increase their incomes by stabilizing employment, improving skills, increasing earnings, and easing access to work support. In it's first year, WASC connected more workers to food stamps and publicly funded health care coverage and , in one site, substantially increased training activities.

  4. Moving from Jobs to Careers: Engaging Low-Wage Workers in Career Advancement by Betsy L. Tessler, David Seith, and Zawadi Rucks (2008)

    Specific Abstract:  The Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) and dislocated workers advance by increasing their wages or work hours, upgrading their skills, or finding better jobs. This report presents preliminary information on the effectiveness demonstration offers a new approach to helping low-wage of strategies that were used to attract people to the WASC program and engage them in services.

  5. From Getting By to Getting Ahead: Navigating Career Advancement for Low-Wage Workers by Betsy L. Tessler and David Seith (2007)

    Specific Abstract:  This report, from MDRC's Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration, explores how WASC career coaches help low-wage workers understand the complex interactions between earnings and eligibility for work support programs and guide them to make the best advancement decisions possible.

  6. A New Approach to Low-Wage Workers and Employers: Launching the Work Advancement and Support Center Demonstration by Jacquelyn Anderson, Linda Yuriko Kato, and James A. Riccio (2006)

    Specific Abstract:  The Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) demonstration tests an innovative approach to fostering employment retention, career advancement, and increased take-up of work supports for a broad range of low wage earners, including reemployed dislocated workers and TANF recipients. This report examines start-up experiences in the first two sites: Dayton, Ohio and Sand Diego, California.


Jobs-Plus Demonstration

General Abstract:  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. A 2005 report showed that the program produced substantial earnings gains for residents in three of six sites in each of the first four years after the program rolled out. This new analysis, which extends the follow-up to seven years, shows that these earnings effects endured at least three years after the program ended - suggesting that Jobs-Plus, when properly implemented, offers a feasible and effective way for the nation’s public housing system to take on another important role: serving as a platform for work.

  1. Sustained Earnings Gains for Residents in a Public Housing Jobs Program: Seven-Year Findings from the Jobs-Plus Demonstration (policy brief) by James Riccio (2010

    Specific Abstract:  An extended analysis of Jobs-Plus, an ambitions employment program inside some of the nation's poorest inner-city public housing demonstrations, finds substantial effects on residents' earnings a full three years after the program ended.

  2. Helping Public Housing Residents Find and Keep Jobs: A Guide for Practitioners Based on the Jobs-Plus Demonstration by Susan Blank and Donna Wharton-Fields (2008)

    Specific Abstract:  This guide contains practical advice on implementing a program model - known as the Jobs-Plus Community Initiative for Public Housing Families (Jobs-Plus) - aimed at helping public housing residents find and keep jobs.

  3. Promoting Work in Public Housing: The Effectiveness of Jobs-Plus by Howard S. Bloom, James A. Riccio, and Nandita Verma (2005)

    Specific Abstract:  Jobs-Plus, an ambitions employment program inside some of the nation's poorest inner-city public housing developments, markedly increased the earnings of residents in the sites where it was implemented well.

  4. Raising Hope with Jobs-Plus: Promoting Work in Seattle Public Housing During a HOPE VI Redevelopment by Nandita Verma, James A. Riccio, and Howard S. Bloom (2005)

    Specific Abstract:  Early success for this ambitions employment program for public housing residents in Seattle was disrupted by HOPE VI grant to tear down and revitalize the housing development.

Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration
  1. What Strategies Work for the Hard-to-Employ? Final Results of the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project and Selected Sites from the Employment Retention and Advancement Project by David Butler, Julianna Alson, Dan Bloom, Victoria Deitch, Aaron Hill, JoAnn Hsueh, Erin Jacobs, Sue Kim, Reanin McRoberts, Cindy Redcross (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  This report describes results and draws lessons for policy and practice from rigorous evaluations of eight program models seeking to increase workforce participation by hard-to-employ population, including long-term welfare recipients, ex-prisoners, Medicaid recipients with depression, and substance abusers.

  2. Enhanced Early Head Start with Employment Services: 42-Month Impacts from the Kansas and Missouri Sites of the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project by JoAnn Hsueh and Mary E. Farrell (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  Two Early Head Start programs were enhanced with formalized services to proactively address parent's employment, educational, and self-sufficiency needs. A random assignment evaluation finds limited impacts for the full sample but some positive effects on employment and earnings for families who had an infant or who were expecting a child at the outset of the study.

  3. More Than a Job: Final Results from the Evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) Transitional Jobs Program by Cindy Redcross, Megan Millenky, Timothy Rudd, and Valerie Levshin (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  Ex-prisoners who had access to CEO's transitional jobs program were less likely to be convicted of a crime and re-incarcerated. The effects were particularly large for those ex-prisoners who enrolled in the program shortly after the release. The recidivism reductions mean that the program is cost-effective - generating more in savings than it cost.

  4. Alternative Employment Strategies for Hard-to-Employ TANF Recipients: Final Results from a Test of Transitional Jobs and Pre-employment Services in Philadelphia by Erin Jacobs and Dan Bloom (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  An evaluation of two different welfare-to-work strategies for long-term welfare recipients finds that: 1) transitional jobs substantially increased employment in the short term, but these effects faded after one year, and 2) it is difficult to engage welfare recipients in extensive pre-employment services long enough to improve their employability.

  5. Working toward Wellness: Telephone Care Management for Medicaid Recipients with Depression, Thirty-Six Months After Random Assignment by Sue Kim, Allen LeBlanc, Pamela Morris, Greg Simon, and Johanna Walter (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  A telephonic care management program increased the use of mental health services by Medicaid recipients with depression while the program was running, but it did not help individuals sustain treatment after the intervention ended. The program did not reduce depression on average, nor did it have any effect on employment outcomes.

  6. Four Strategies to Overcome Barriers to Employment: An Introduction to the Enhanced Services for the Hard-to-Employ Demonstration and Evaluation Project by Dan Bloom, Cindy Redcross, JoAnn Hsueh, Sarah Rich, and Vanessa Martin (2007)

    Specific Abstract:   This demonstration is evaluating four diverse strategies designed to improve employment and other outcomes for low-income parents and others who face serious barriers to employment.


Employment Retention and Advancement Project

General Abstract: Many recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other low-income individuals find or keep jobs for a while, but far fewer remain steadily employed and advance in the labor market. The Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) project was launched in 1999 to identify and determine the effectiveness of different program strategies designed to promote employment stability and earnings growth among current or former welfare recipients and other low-income individuals. The study was conceived and funded by the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; supplemental support was provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, and the evaluation was conducted by MDRC.

  1. Increasing Employment Stability and Earnings for Low-Wage Workers: Lessons from the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project by Gayle Hamilton and Susan Scrivener (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  This report describes results and draws lessons from rigorous evaluations of 12 programs seeking to improve employment retention and advancement among low-wage workers.

  2. Providing Earnings Supplements to Encourage and Sustain Employment: Lessons from Research and Practice (policy brief) by Karin Martinson and Gayle Hamilton (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  This 12-page practitioner brief offers lessons for policy and practice from MDRC conducted random assignment studies of five programs that provided earnings supplements to low-income parents to encourage employment and increase the payoff of low-wage work.

  3. Can Low-Income Single Parents Move Up in the Labor Market? Findings from the Employment Retention and Advancement Project (practitioner brief) by Cynthia Miller, Victoria Deitch, and Aaron Hill (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  This 12-page practitioner brief examines the work, education, and training patterns of single parents in the national Employment Retention and Advancement Project, which evaluated strategies to promote employment stability among low-income workers. The findings support other research in underscoring the importance of changing jobs and of access to "good" jobs as strategies to help low-wage workers advance.

  4. Paths to Advancement for Single Parents by Cynthia Miller, Victoria Deitch, and Aaron Hill (2010)

    Specific Abstract:  This report from the national Employment Retention and Advancement Project examines the 27,000 single parents who participated in the studied programs to understand the characteristics of those who successfully advanced in the labor market.

  5. Finding the Next Job: Reemployment Strategies in Retention and Advancement Programs for Current and Former Welfare Recipients (practitioner brief) by Melissa Wavelet, Karin Martinson, and Gayle Hamilton (2010)

    Specific Abstract:  When current and former welfare recipients find jobs, they often lose them quickly and have trouble finding another job. This brief, based on the experiences of 12 programs in the national Employment Retention and Advancement evaluation, offers advice on how to design and implement practices that turn a recent job loss into an opportunity to find a better one.

  6. How Effective Are Different Approaches Aiming to Increase Employment Retention and Advancement? Final Impacts for Twelve Models by Richard Hendra, Keri-Nicole Dillman, Gayle Hamilton, Erika Lundquist, Karin Martinson, and Melissa Wavelet (2010)

    Specific Abstract:  This report presents the final implementation and impact findings for 12 programs in the national Employment Retention and Advancement project, sponsored by the federal Administration for children and Families at HHS, and the Employment and Training Administration at DOL. These programs attempted to promote steady work and career advancement for current and former welfare recipients and other low-wage workers, most of whom were single mothers.

  7. Benefit-Cost Findings for Three Programs in the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project by Cindy Redcross, Victoria Deitch, and Mary Farrell (2010)

    Specific Abstract:  This report examines the financial benefits and costs of three different programs in the national Employment Retention and Advancement of Health and Human Services, with assistance from the Employment and Training Administration that have increased employment and earnings among current and former welfare recipients.


Opening Doors

General Abstract: In today's economy, postsecondary credentials are increasingly important to labor market success. Community colleges provide a key pathway to these credentials for many, including low-income and nontraditional students. Unfortunately, many community college students leave before earning a degree or credential, especially those who enter underprepared for college-level work. As part of MDRC's multisite Opening Doors demonstration, Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, New York - a large, urban college in the City University of New York (CUNY) system - tested a one-semester learning community program. The program placed freshmen into groups of up to 25 students who took three classes together during their first semester: a developmental or college-level English course, an academic course required for the student's major, and a freshman orientation course. It also provided enhanced counseling and tutoring as well as textbook vouchers. MDRC is using a random assignment research design to study the effects of the Opening Doors.

  1. Commencement Day: Six-Year Effects of a Freshman Learning Community Program at Kingsborough Community College by Colleen Sommo, Alexander K. Mayer, Timothy Rudd, and Dan Cullinan (2012)

    Specific Abstract:  Students who participated in a one-semester learning community, in which small groups of students took three linked classes together and received other extra services, were more likely to have graduated six years later. The program also proved to be cost-effective.

  2. Serving Community College Students on Probation: Four-Year Findings from Chaffey College's Opening Doors Program by Michael Weiss, Thomas Brock, Colleen Sommo, Timothy Rudd, and Mary Clair Turner (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  This program included a "College Success" course and offered enhanced counseling. A change from optional to required services led to increased program participation, and the new program decreased the percentage on academic probation after two program semesters. Nevertheless, after four years, the program had no discernible effect on academic outcomes.

  3. Opening Doors to Student Success: A Synthesis of Findings from an Evaluation at Six Community Colleges (policy brief) by Susan Scrivener and Erin Coghlan (2011)

    Specific Abstract:  This demonstration proved that a range of interventions can improve educational outcomes. The Opening Doors Demonstration, launched in 2003 with six community colleges, provides some of the first rigorous evidence concerning community college students. This 12-page policy brief describes the strategies tested, discusses the results, and offers suggestions to policymakers and practitioners for moving forward.

  4. More Guidance, Better Results? Three-Year Effects of an Enhanced Student Services Program at Two Community Colleges by Susan Scrivener and Michael J. Weiss (2009)

    Specific Abstract:  In this program, low-income students received enhanced student services and were eligible for a modest stipend for two semesters. The program improved academic outcomes in the second semester and registration in the semester after that, but these effects did not persist in subsequent semesters.

  5. Rewarding Persistence: Effects of a Performance-Based Scholarship Program for Low-Income Parents by Lashawn Richburg-Hayes, Thomas Brock, Allen LeBlanc, Christina Paxson, Cecilia Elena Rouse, and Lisa Barrow (2009)

    Specific Abstract:  This report describes the impacts of a performance-based scholarship program with a counseling component on academic success and persistence among low-income parents. Students who participated in the program, which was operated at two New Orleans-area colleges as part of MDRC's multisite Opening Doors demonstration, were more likely to stay in school, get higher grades, and earn more credits.


  1. The Challenge of Repeating Success in a Changing World: Final Report on the Center for Employment Training Replication Sites by Cynthia Miller, Johannes M. Bos, Kristin E. Porter, Fannie M. Tseng, and Yasuyo Abe (2005)

    Specific Abstract:  The Center for Employment Training (CET) in San Jose, California, produced large, positive employment and earnings effects for out-of-school youth in the late 1980's. However, in this replication study, even the highest-fidelity sites did not increase employment or earnings for youth over the 54-month follow-up period, despite short-term positive effects for women. This demonstration was sponsored by the Employment and Training Administration at the DOL.

  2. The Challenge of Helping Low-Income Fathers Support Their Children: Final Lessons from Parents' Fair Share by Cynthia Miller and Virginia Knox (2001)

    Specific Abstract:  Parents' Fair Share was a national demonstration program to help low-income noncustodial fathers find more stable and better-paying jobs, pay child support on a consistent basis, and become more involved parents. The program increased employment and earnings for the least-employable men but not for the men who were more able to find work on their own; it also encouraged some fathers to take a more active parenting role. Men referred to the program paid more child support than men in the control group.