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Findings from RCT Grants

Earnings and Employment Impacts in the English for Advancement (EfA) Randomized Trial — a Workforce Development Program for English Language Learners

This well-conducted RCT found that EfA increased earnings by $1,175, or 6.7%, in the second year after program entry.

Grantee: Economic Mobility Corporation (Mobility). Mobility’s study report is linked here.

Description of the Intervention: This was a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of English for Advancement (EfA), an employment-focused program for adult English language learners that provides language instruction, career coaching, and job training and placement services. The program is delivered by Jewish Vocational Service, a nonprofit service provider, in coordination with five partner organizations located throughout the Greater Boston area. Major components of the program include two to 12 months of classes in English language instruction and up to two years of job retention and advancement assistance services. The program costs approximately $5,000 per participant. 

Study Design: Between September 2016 and September 2019, the study randomly assigned 1,952 individuals with low English proficiency to (i) a treatment group that received EfA services, or (ii) a control group that did not. A majority of the sample members were female (76%) and Latinx (72%); around half had a high school diploma or GED, and around 32% had a college degree. At the time of study enrollment, the sample averaged 39 years of age and had lived in the United States for an average of 7.4 years, 54% were unemployed, 27% were employed full-time, and 20% were employed part-time. 

This study, conducted as part of a Pay for Success initiative, measured EfA’s effects on earnings and employment through two years after random assignment, using administrative data from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. 1

Impact on the Primary Outcome: On the study’s pre-registered primary outcome – average earnings in the second year after random assignment – the study’s analysis found that EfA produced a gain of $1,175, or 6.7% (the EfA group’s earnings were $18,701 compared to $17,525 for the control group). This effect was significant at p<0.10. Notably, for the study’s first cohort, for which the two-year follow-up period pre-dates the COVID-19 public health crisis, the study found a $2,478 or 13.1% increase in average earnings (significant at p<0.05). There was no significant impact on average earnings for the second cohort, for which the two-year follow-up period overlapped with the pandemic. 2 The study also found suggestive, positive impacts on employment.

Study Quality: Based on careful review, we believe this is a well-conducted RCT that has produced valid findings. 3

  1. 1

    It will not be possible to measure EfA’s longer-term effects because study participants’ consent was only obtained for a two-year follow-up period.

  2. 2

    Many EfA participants were placed in job fields disproportionately affected by the pandemic (the leisure and hospitality industries), which may have contributed to the diminished impact of the program for the second cohort.

  3. 3

    For example, the study had successful random assignment (as evidenced by highly similar treatment and control groups), no sample attrition, and valid analyses that were publicly pre-registered.