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Job Search Assistance (JSA) Strategies Evaluation


  • There had been limited research on job-search strategies’ effectiveness.
  • Implementation and impact studies determined relative effectiveness of such strategies.
  • Impacts varied by site, with cross-site summary available in fall 2020 .
The Challenge

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs typically provide job search assistance (JSA) in addition to their income-support role. JSA strategies can include group, one-on-one, or self-directed activities. While there is evidence JSA strategies increase employment, the impacts are modest. Many recipients struggle to find and keep jobs despite the assistance. Moreover, there is little evidence about what type of JSA strategies are more effective in improving employment and earnings outcomes for cash-assistance recipients.

The Approach

The Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families at the Department of Health and Human Services sponsored the JSA Strategies Evaluation to examine the relative effectiveness of different job search approaches for transitioning TANF and other cash assistance recipients to work. The evaluation’s impact study uses a random assignment research design to compare employment and public assistance outcomes of different JSA approaches. The evaluation’s implementation study examines service delivery and operations.

The Results

The JSA evaluation includes both an implementation and impact study of different JSA approaches in three sites. In New York, NY and Sacramento, CA, the JSA evaluation examines the effectiveness of more and less rigorous participation requirements for cash assistance recipients. In Michigan (Wayne and Genesee), the evaluation examines effects of a goal-oriented coaching approach that helps cash assistance recipients set employment-focused goals and break them into smaller, achievable tasks. The evaluation compared this enhanced approach with the existing TANF program and did not detect impacts on employment rates (the study’s confirmatory outcome), earnings, or cash assistance receipt.

In two sites, the JSA evaluation includes an implementation study of promising JSA approaches. In Ramsey County, MN, the study documents the implementation of a goal-oriented coaching approach, and in Westchester County, NY, the study examines the implementation of an intensive job-search program called STRIVE (report forthcoming).