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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

An interim analysis of this well-conducted RCT found that EfA increased earnings by $2,621, or 15%, in the second year after program entry.

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

Description of the Intervention: This is an ongoing 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, which is being conducted as part of a Pay for Success initiative, is measuring EfA’s effects on earnings and employment through two years after random assignment, using administrative data from the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. The interim report presents findings for the 40% of the sample (the early cohorts) for whom two-year outcome data are currently available.1 The study’s final report, expected in fall 2022, will present two-year results for the full sample.2

Impact on the Primary Outcome: On the study’s pre-registered primary outcome – earnings in the second year after random assignment – the study’s interim analysis found that EfA produced a sizable gain of $2,621, or 15% (the EfA group’s earnings were $20,480 compared to $17,859 for the control group). This effect was highly statistically significant (p<0.01). The study also found a statistically significant 9 percentage point gain in employment during the second year (83% of the EfA group was employed at any point in the year versus 74% of the control group, p<0.01). Impacts on both earnings and employment grew in magnitude over the two-year follow-up period.

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

  1. 1

    For these early cohorts, the two-year follow-up period pre-dates the COVID-19 public health crisis and resulting recession.

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  2. 2

    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.

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  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.

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