Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation

Prepared for
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration

WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs
The WIA Gold Standard Evaluation
Local Areas in the Study
Estimating Impacts

With a growing need for a more skilled workforce, providing effective, efficient employment and training services is an important national priority. Two of the nation’s largest publicly funded employment and training programs have been the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs, which were first authorized under the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) and then reauthorized in 2014 under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). In 2015, these programs together served about 6.6 million job seekers at a cost of about $2 billion. Although WIOA made important changes to the public workforce system, the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs will, for the most part, continue to offer services similar to those offered under WIA.

Despite their importance, the Adult and Dislocated Worker programs have not been evaluated using a rigorous national experimental evaluation. To address this knowledge gap about the programs’ effectiveness, in 2008, the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration initiated the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs Gold Standard Evaluation.

WIA Gold Standard Evaluation Partners

The study is being conducted by Mathematica and our partners at:

Social Policy Research Associates
Corporation for a Skilled Workforce

Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs

The Adult and Dislocated Worker programs as authorized under WIA provided three primary tiers of services: (1) core services, which were available to everyone and typically included self-service activities such as accessing job listings and local labor market information in a resource room or via the Internet; (2) intensive services, which were available for those who needed more assistance than core services and involved one-on-one assistance from an employment counselor; and (3) training, which was typically offered by means of a voucher to customers who needed a skills upgrade to obtain and retain employment. Many local areas also provided customers with supportive services (such as transportation assistance) to help them succeed in job search and training activities. Customers accessed these services, as well as other employment-related services, through about 2,500 American Job Centers (formerly known as One-Stop Career Centers) nationwide. WIOA continues to provide these services to adults and dislocated workers through American Job Centers but combines core and intensive services into a single “career services” tier.

The Adult and Dislocated Worker programs provide the same services but serve different populations. The Adult program serves customers ages 18 or older, and, in local areas where available funds cannot serve everyone, gives priority to low-income people. The Dislocated Worker program serves primarily people who have been laid off or terminated from a job.

The WIA Gold Standard Evaluation

The evaluation addresses three main research questions:

  • Did access to intensive services and training through the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker programs lead to better employment-related outcomes?
  • How were the WIA Adult and Dislocated programs implemented?
  • Were the services cost-effective?

The national evaluation was augmented by a study of veterans who received WIA-funded services.

Local Areas in the Study

Twenty-eight Local Workforce Investment Areas (local areas) representative of local areas nationwide were randomly selected to participate in the evaluation.

WIA map revised May 2105

Estimating Impacts

The study estimates the impacts of (1) access to WIA intensive services relative to core services alone, (2) access to all program services relative to access to both core and intensive services but no training, and (3) access to all program services relative to access to core services alone.

Most customers in the study local areas who requested and were eligible for intensive services were randomly assigned to one of three groups:

  1. Core group, who could receive only core services and no intensive or training services
  2. Core-and-intensive group, who could receive core and intensive but not training services
  3. Full-WIA group, who could receive any services (core, intensive, or training) for which they were eligible

From November 2011 to April 2013, about 35,000 customers were randomly assigned to one of these three groups. Six percent were assigned to the core group, 6 percent to the core-and-intensive group, and 88 percent to the full-WIA group.

Sources of study participant information used in the impact analysis include: (1) forms the study participants completed before random assignment; (2) administrative data on services received, employment and earnings, and unemployment insurance receipt; and (3) telephone surveys administered to a subset of study participants at 15 and 30 months after random assignment.

Describing Implementation 

An implementation study examined the operations of the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker programs and described the nature of the services that were available to customers in each of the three study groups. Data for the implementation study were collected during two rounds of multiday visits to each of the 28 local areas and from visits to state offices in the 19 states with local areas participating in the evaluation.

Estimating Cost-Effectiveness 

A benefit-cost analysis examined the benefits and costs of the programs and will be reported as part of the longer-term findings. Information on the cost of providing program services was collected from each local area participating in the study.

Examining Veterans’ Experiences

To avoid limiting services they could receive, veterans were not included in the experimental evaluation. Instead, the Veterans’ Supplemental Study (VSS) analyzed administrative data and qualitative data collected during visits to the 28 local areas participating in the study to examine the characteristics and experiences of veterans who received American Job Center services. This study component examined the characteristics of the veterans who visited American Job Centers, the assistance they received and their outcomes, issues staff faced in providing assistance to veterans, and how priority of service for veterans was operationalized. Because the 28 local areas were randomly selected, the results of the VSS are representative of those for local areas nationwide.

Reporting Findings

A report on the VSS and a series of policy-focused briefs and a report discussing the implementation of the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker programs was released in fall 2015. Findings on the effectiveness of the programs measured 15 months after job seeker enrollment were released in 2017. Findings on the longer-term effectiveness of the programs and their benefits and costs will be available in 2018.