Jobs Aren't Enough: Toward a New Economic Mobility for Low-Income Families

By Roberta Rehner Iversen; Annie Laurie Armstrong | Go to book overview

Appendix A
Frequently Asked Questions about the
Research in this Book: Research Design

How did we come to study economic mobility through these twenty-five families?

We gained entrée to the families and auxiliaries in this book through an eight-year five-city1 workforce development demonstration called the Jobs Initiative, created and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. To counteract labor market problems such as skills mismatch, spatial mismatch, and race discrimination (Holzer, 1996; Jargowsky, 1997; O'Connor, Tilly, & Bobo, 2001), the demonstration aims to improve the employment and retention of young-adult job seekers in impoverished inner-city communities, thereby helping children as well. As such, the demonstration is organized around local and regional particularities yet retains a national focus through its overarching design (Giloth, 2004a; Giloth & Phillips, 2000). Five key components comprise each city's effort: (1) civic infrastructure, (2) an appropriate development intermediary (called here a “workforce intermediary”), (3) a designated impact community, (4) job projects, and (5) job policy reform (Hebert et al., 2002). In effect, the demonstration systematically crafts new program designs and organizational partnerships in concert with local needs and capacities toward the dual goal of poverty alleviation and economic development at both individual and community levels (Giloth, 1995).

Specific to this book, a variety of existing and new job-training programs affiliate with or are created in conjunction with the local workforce intermediaries because their program services correspond to local industries and markets that analyses consider robust for “good jobs.” Most of the programs the key parents attend are freestanding, independent programs that serve job seekers beyond those associated with the demonstration. As Chapter 5 shows, these programs range from “rapid attachment” welfareto-work programs to short-term skill training to intensive, long-term skill training in vocational institutes or community colleges. Still, given the “work first” orientation of programs under the sole auspices of TANF and WIA, the programs here may offer job seekers somewhat easier access to skill training.

Instead of establishing fixed “eligibility criteria,” the job programs explicitly target services to economically disadvantaged residents of the cities' impoverished neighborhoods: for example, women on welfare, incumbent workers, single men, or any low-income resident in the region. The general criteria emphasize but are not limited to younger workers, ages eighteen to thirty-five, because of the Foundation's interest in improving the well-being of young children (Fleischer, 2001). The programs also deliberately target job seekers of African American descent and others from underrepresented minority and immigrant groups whose previous job pathways may have been constrained by discrimination or insufficient acculturation.

Reports from the national evaluation team provide informative demographic and performance data about participants, rates of job placement, wages and benefits, rates of job retention, and advancement across the five demonstration cities (Abt

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