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Program Profile: Job Corps

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on September 10, 2012

Program Summary

A national residential education and job training program that targets economically disadvantaged youths between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. The program is rated Promising. Participants were less likely to be arrested, convicted and incarcerated than the control. There were no statistically significant differences between the control and treatment for alcohol or drug usage. Employment rates and earnings surpassed the control group during the 2nd year follow-up period.

This program’s rating is based on evidence that includes at least one high-quality randomized controlled trial.

Program Description

Program Theory/Background
Job Corps is the nation’s largest federally funded vocationally focused education and training program for economically disadvantaged youths. Job Corps was established by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and currently operates under the provisions of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The U.S. Department of Labor administers Job Corps through a national office and six regional offices and provides services through partnerships with private and public agencies. Job Corps delivers intensive education (academic and general health) and training (vocational and social skills) to participants enrolled in its nationwide network of residential campuses. This training is delivered through a combination of classroom and practical hands-on experiences to prepare youths for stable, long-term, high-paying jobs. Training approaches and methods vary to allow for individualized instruction to meet the needs of each participant.

Target Population/Eligibility
To be eligible for Job Corps, participants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be between 16 and 24 years old
  • Be a legal U.S. resident
  • Be economically disadvantaged (receiving welfare or food stamps)
  • Live in an area with high crime rates, limited job opportunities, or a disruptive home life
  • Need additional education, training, or job skills
  • Be nonviolent or free of serious behavioral problems
  • Have a clean health history
  • (For participants who have children) have a child care plan
  • Have registered with the Selective Service Board
  • (For minors) have parental consent
  • Be judged to have the capability and aspirations to participate in Job Corps
Program Activities/Goals
Job Corps services are delivered in three stages: 1) outreach and admissions, 2) center operations, and 3) placement. Outreach and admissions functions are usually performed by agencies located in economically disadvantaged communities, both urban and rural. These agencies recruit participants for Job Corps by providing information about the program to community groups and civic organizations that work with youth (schools, courts, welfare agencies). Job Corps offers vocational training for more than 75 different trades. The typical Job Corps center will offer youths 10 or 11 trades for which to receive training.

Center operations include the program’s core services of academic education, vocational training, residential living, and health care along with a wide range of other services, such as counseling, social skills training, health education, and recreation. Though enrollment in this phase of the program does not have a fixed duration, participants are typically involved for 8 months. Most of the enrolled participants will reside at one of the Job Corps centers during their vocational training and education classes. The residential living is one of the unique aspects of the Job Corps program. Even the minority of participants who do not reside on campus spend most of the workweek (Monday through Friday) on campus. Both residential and nonresidential participants receive meals and health and dental care, and are allowed to participate in all of the various activities offered. Finally, placement services and agencies help former Job Corps participants get jobs that will allow them to be self-sufficient or to pursue additional training. These services start while youths are enrolled in the Job Corps centers and continue for up to 6 months after they leave the program.

The main goal of Job Corps is to help youths become more employable and productive citizens. This is measured primarily across four broad areas: 1) educational attainment, 2) employment and earnings, 3) reduction of public assistance, and 4) reduction in crime and recidivism. Job Corps targets economically disadvantaged and at-risk youths with additional education, vocational training, and support services to help them secure stable, high-paying jobs. Another important aspect of becoming a productive citizen is to teach civic awareness and respect for others. This assists Job Corps in achieving its secondary goals of reducing criminal offending and recidivism within this population of youths.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Schochet, Burghardt, and Glazerman (2001) found that participation in Job Corps led to statistically significant reductions in arrests. Almost one third of control group members (32.6 percent) were arrested during the 48-month follow-up period, compared with 28.8 percent in the treatment group. This impact corresponds to a 16 percent reduction in the arrest rate attributable to participation in the Job Corps program. Additionally, about 18 percent of control group members were arrested more than once, and nearly half of those arrests occurred within the first year after random assignment. Program group members were also less likely to have arrest charges for all categories of crimes, except for assault. This suggests that the crime reductions had a uniform impact rather than just reducing substance use or property offenses.

A similar beneficial impact was found for convictions. More than 25 percent of the control group members were convicted, pled guilty, or were adjudged delinquent in the 48-month follow-up period, compared with 22 percent of the treatment group members. The statistically significant impact resulted in a 17 percent reduction in convictions for participants in the Job Corps program. This is attributed to participants in the treatment group being arrested at lower rates than members of the control group, as about 75 percent of participants arrested (both treatment and control) were convicted.

Job Corps participation also reduced incarceration rates and time spent incarcerated. About 18 percent of control group members were incarcerated, compared with 16 percent of treatment group members. This impact resulted in a 17 percent reduction in the incarceration rate. Job Corps participants spent an average of about six days less in jail than those in the control group. This translates to a 14 percent reduction in time spent in jail during the 48-month follow-up period. Similar to the conviction findings, these findings were due to a large difference in arrests between members of the treatment group and the control group. In other words, fewer overall arrests in the treatment group resulted in fewer overall convictions, which resulted in fewer overall incarcerations.

Alcohol/Drug Usage
This study showed no statistically significant long-lasting findings for alcohol and drug usage. Job Corps participation had no statistically significant effect on cigarette smoking. Both control and treatment group members smoked cigarettes before the 12-month survey and continued to report regular smoking at the 30- and 48-month surveys.

Participation in Job Corps slightly reduced alcohol consumption at the 12-month follow-up. However, this small effect was evident at neither the 30-month nor the 48-month follow-up survey. That is, by the last data collection there was no significant statistical difference between treatment and control members in terms of alcohol consumption.

There were no significant statistical differences found between the treatment and control groups for illegal drug use as well. Job Corps participation had no impact on the use of marijuana, hashish, or hard drugs at the 12-, 30- and 48-month surveys.

The employment rate of the control group was significantly higher than that of the treatment group during the period when many treatment group members were enrolled in Job Corps. These differences narrowed over time, as Job Corps members left the program and started to gain employment. Impacts of the Job Corps program become positive 2 years after random assignment. This effect grew stronger between the second- and third-year follow-up periods and remained fairly constant by the fourth-year follow-up. In year 4, the average quarterly impact on the employment rate was about 3 percentage points (69 percent for the treatment and 66 percent for the control). Treatment group members spent more time in education and training programs, and their employment rate did not surpass the control group until the second-year follow-up.

A similar result was found for time employed, which was measured by weeks employed and number of hours worked per week. Again, the control group members worked more weeks and more hours during the week during the time when treatment group members were enrolled in Job Corps. As treatment group members left Job Corps and started working, this difference narrowed. The positive impacts of the Job Corps program were evidenced in quarters 8 and 12 (the second- and third-year follow-up periods).

Job Corps members had better earnings, especially in years 3 and 4 of the study. Similar to the employment findings, control group members initially earned more than treatment group members, as they were enrolled in Job Corps and not yet earning wages. Average weekly earnings were significantly higher for control group members than for treatment group members during the first 5 quarters after random assignment. However, starting in quarter 7 and growing throughout quarters 8 and 12 (or the third year of the study), treatment group members started earning more than control group members. By year 4 of the study, Job Corps members demonstrated a statistically significant positive impact on their earnings. Job Corps members were earning about $211 per week, compared with control group members, who were earning about $195 per week. Job Corps participants were estimated to be earning an average of 12 percent more than if they had not enrolled in the program.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Schochet, Burghardt, and Glazerman (2001) used an experimental design with random assignment to assess the effects of the Job Corps program on criminal justice involvement, employment, earnings, and time employed. This was the first nationally representative experimental evaluation of a federal employment program. Between Nov. 17, 1994, and Dec. 16, 1995, nearly 81,000 eligible applicants nationwide were randomly assigned to either enroll in a Job Corps program group or to a control group which did not receive Job Corps services (although they could participate in other training or education programs). This large sample was followed for 4 years after random assignment to the treatment group (Job Corps program services) and the control group (not receiving Job Corps program services).

Outcome measures for the study were obtained from two sources: survey data and administrative earnings records. The surveys were conducted at baseline (shortly after random assignment) and at 12-, 30-, and 48-month follow-up periods. Surveys were conducted primarily by telephone and, if necessary, in person. Final analysis and results are based on participants who completed a 48-month follow-up interview. This resulted in 6,828 youths in the Job Corps program group (an 81 percent response rate) and 4,485 youths in the control group (a 78 percent response rate). Educational attainment, employment and job characteristics, receipt of public assistance, and criminal offending were all measured in the participant surveys. Educational attainment was measured by items such as number of programs that youths participated in; attainment of degrees, diplomas, or certificates; and number of hours in training. Employment was measured with similar items such as number of hours worked in a week, number of weeks employed, and job characteristics. Receipt of public assistance was measured with items asking about sources of income (unemployment insurance), receiving assistance in the form of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families or food stamps, and living in public housing. Criminal offending was measured by items asking about number of arrests, number of convictions, most serious charge for which one has been convicted, substance use, time spent in drug or alcohol treatment, and time spent in jail or on probation/parole.

The administrative earnings records (tax data) were collected for 9 years after random assignment. By year 9, participants in the original sample were between the ages of 25 and 33. This data came in two forms: 1) annual summary earnings reported by employers to the Internal Revenue Service and 2) wage records reported to state unemployment insurance agencies. These two sources of tax data cover most workers in formal jobs. Agricultural labor, railroad workers, and some domestic service workers are not covered in either data source. This tax data was used as another source of information to corroborate employment and earnings data collected in the participant surveys.

The study population was mostly male (60 percent) and younger than 20 (73.2 percent were 19 or younger). Most of the sample were racial or ethnic minorities (47.4 percent African American, and 17.7 percent Hispanic) and did not have high school diplomas or GEDs (77 percent). Almost one third of the female participants (28.7 percent) reported having children of their own. The majority of the sample reported never having been arrested (76.6 percent); only a small number stated they had been arrested for a serious crime (4.7 percent). Owing to the random assignment and large sample sizes, there were no significant statistical differences between the treatment and control groups at baseline.

The analysis used average impact estimates per eligible applicant. These were obtained by computing differences in mean outcomes between all treatment group members and all control group members. Weights were used in all calculations and analyses to adjust for the sample and survey designs. Notably, these impact estimates represent the effects of Job Corps relative to other employment and training programs in the community, but not relative to the absence of training. These impact estimates represent the incremental effects of the Job Corps program relative to other programs in which control group members participated.
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Job Corps is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. It is currently operated and authorized by Title I-C of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.
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Implementation Information

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Job Corps has 125 centers nationwide, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Eligible students are typically matched with a center located close to their hometown. A map and listing of all Job Corps centers is available on the Job Corps Web site
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Schochet, Peter Z., John A. Burghardt, and Steven Glazerman. 2001. National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Johnson, Terry, R. Mark Gritz, Russell Jackson, John A. Burghardt, Carol Boussy, Jan Leonard, and Carlyn Orians. 1999. National Job Corps Study: Report on the Process Analysis. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

McConnell, Sheena, and Steven Glazerman. 2001. National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Schochet, Peter Z. 2001. National Job Corps Study: Methodological Appendixes on the Impact Analysis. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Schochet, Peter Z., Sheena McConnell, and John A. Burghardt. 2003. National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Schochet, Peter Z. John A. Burghardt, and Sheena McConnell. 2006. National Job Corps Study and Longer-Term Follow-Up Study: Impact and Benefit–Cost Findings Using Survey and Summary Earnings Records Data. Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Schochet, Peter Z., John A. Burghardt, and Sheena McConnell. 2008. “Does Job Corps Work? Impact Findings From the National Job Corps Study.” American Economic Review 98(5):1864–86.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Noncustodial Employment Programs for Ex-Offenders
This practice involves job training and career development for offenders with a recent criminal record in order to increase employment and reduce recidivism. These programs take place outside of the traditional custodial correctional setting, after offenders are released. The practice is rated No Effects in reducing criminal behavior for participants in noncustodial employment training programs compared with those who did not participate.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
No Effects - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 16 - 24

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Hispanic, White

Geography: Rural, Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Residential (group home, shelter care, nonsecure), Campus, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Academic Skills Enhancement, Vocational/Job Training

Targeted Population: Truants/Dropouts

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide, What Works Clearinghouse

Program Director:
Job Corps National Office
200 Constitution Avenue NW, Suite N4463
Washington DC 20210
Phone: 202.693.3000
Fax: 202.693.2767