Employment and Training Programs

Source: Burton S. Barnow, Jeffrey A. Smith, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. w21659, October 2015

From the abstract:
This chapter considers means-tested employment and training programs in the United States. We focus in particular on large, means-tested federal programs, including the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), its successor the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), that program’s recent replacement, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the long-running Job Corps program, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program. The first part of the chapter provides details on program history, organization, expenditures, eligibility rules, services, and participant characteristics. In the second part of the chapter, we discuss the applied econometric methods typically used to evaluate these programs, which in the United States means primarily social experiments and methods such as matching that rely on an assumption of “selection on observed variables.” The third part of the chapter reviews the literature evaluating these programs, highlighting both methodological and substantive lessons learned as well as open questions. The fourth part of the chapter considers what lessons the evaluation literature provides on program operation, especially how to best allocate particular services to particular participants. The final section concludes with the big picture lessons from this literature and discussion of promising directions for future research.