Project Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis demonstrated the need for a robust set of employment supports in the wake of massive job losses. Subsidized employment programs historically have been critical supports for people struggling to gain or maintain a foothold in the labor market because of multiple barriers to employment. Subsidized employment could also lift people and families out of poverty by offering opportunities to build skills through work experience and on-the-job training and promoting longer-term labor force attachment.

In 2013, California significantly expanded its subsidized employment programs to serve all people eligible for cash assistance, delivering these programs through county welfare agencies. Yet unemployment rates in California remain higher than the national rate, and expanded subsidized employment (ESE) programs in California appear to be underused by people who could most benefit from them. Based at the Subsidized Employment Lab at the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, this project will undertake a comprehensive mixed-method evaluation of California’s ESE programs to build evidence for the following questions:

  • Who is disconnected from ESE programs but would benefit from participation?
  • What are the long-term earnings and employment outcomes for program participants, and where and how do disparities arise among different people served by different ESE programs?
  • What are concrete ways ESE programs can be transformed into powerful poverty reduction and economic mobility tools for state and local leaders?

The project team will draw upon qualitative data from its ongoing American Voices Project as well as administrative records from participating county welfare agencies. The team aims to engage both national, state, and county policy leaders with its work in addition to the broader research and social science community. The team will share their findings through a variety of channels, including peer-reviewed research papers, policy briefs, and convenings.