Socioeconomic Supports in Job Training Programs: How You Can Help Determine their Value

This post originally appeared in the August/September 2015 edition of NAWDP Advantage, the newsletter of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals. September is designated as Workforce Development Month.


By Rachel Linn, Communications Associate, and Cynthia Hess, Study Director

Job training can provide an entry into family-sustaining jobs and careers, yet many adults face economic, scheduling, and other challenges that make it difficult for them to enroll and succeed in job training programs. Socioeconomic supports—or wraparound services, such as child care assistance, access to public benefits, and transportation or housing assistance—can help adults, particularly those with caregiving responsibilities, to complete job training programs that will ultimately improve their economic standing.

Socioeconomic supports, as a route to job training access and success, are especially important for women, who increasingly serve as breadwinners for their families, but still face a pay gap. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research found that as of 2013, women were the primary or co-breadwinner in half of families with children under age 18 in the United States — yet women continue to earn less, and experience higher poverty than comparable men.

Evaluation research points to the importance of socioeconomic support services for job training completion and success. An evaluation of nine sectoral programs found that supportive services were often necessary to help participants complete job training and obtain jobs. In particular, Project QUEST, a community-based workforce development program in San Antonio, had higher completion rates than other training programs of similar duration, which the evaluator attributed to the strong support system that Project QUEST provides. An evaluation of the outcomes of participants in three job training programs in Maryland, Missouri, and New Mexico that implement an approach developed by the Center for Working Families (which bundles core services for participants) found that integrated service delivery was associated with the completion of job training or degree programs, as well as job retention and advancement. In all of the programs, the highest achievers were more likely to have received wraparound services, compared with all other participants.

Despite anecdotal evidence and some studies pointing to the importance of wraparound supports for job training participants, little is known about how many job training programs offer supports of different types and which supports best meet the needs of low-income women, who typically have more caregiving responsibilities than comparable men. IWPR recently launched a research initiative to address this gap. “Socioeconomic Supports and Women’s Job Training Success,” seeks to improve knowledge about the landscape of socioeconomic support provision within the U.S. workforce development system and stimulate national dialogue about the importance of these supports in promoting job training success.

Funded by the Walmart Foundation, the initiative will use a variety of research methods—including a literature review, expert interviews, a promising practices study, and online surveys of administrators and participants from job training programs—to gather and examine information on the prevalence of socioeconomic supports in job training programs, their perceived effectiveness, and promising practices in service support delivery. The project will produce a series of research products and hold outreach activities to promote dialogue among program leaders, advocates, policymakers, and workforce development researchers.

The project aims to provide information that can help programs, and the workforce development system as a whole, effectively target their investments in socioeconomic supports. To help with this study, IWPR is seeking input from professionals in the field as well as job training participants. Please contact Rachel Linn if you would like to participate in a survey, as a part of this national study, or have suggestions for programs that are effectively providing socioeconomic supports.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

Equal Pay for Women Can Cut Poverty in Half, Boost Wages Significantly, AND Grow the Economy. Can Any Other Policy Lever Do That?

Equal Pay for Women Can Cut Poverty in Half, Boost Wages Significantly, AND Grow the Economy. Can Any Other Policy Lever Do That?

by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D.

Every September, the U.S. Census Bureau releases its update on income and poverty in the United States. I—along with many other economists, policy wonks, data geeks, and others—impatiently refresh the Census.gov website to learn whether there has been any improvement in men’s and women’s earnings, the wage gap, or the poverty rate. In recent years, the significance of each release has been characterized by its insignificance: since 2007, there has not been a statistically significant narrowing of the gender wage gap, and between 2013 and 2014, there was not a statistically significant difference in the poverty rate.  Moreover, adjusted for inflation, the last ten years have seen virtually no increase in women’s earnings, so women are now experiencing what men have experienced for more than three decades—the failure of real wages to grow.

According to the new Census data, women now earn 79 cents for every dollar a man earns for full-time, year-round work; actually that’s 78.6 cents compared with a new estimate for the prior year of 78.3 cents, a small gain indeed.  The gap is even wider for most women of color, with Black women earning only 59.8 cents on the white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women only 54.6 cents on the white man’s dollar. By projecting the rate of progress from 1960 forward, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) has found that women will not see equal pay until 2059, one year longer than IWPR’s previous projection. As a clever segment on The Daily Show noted, wage equality for women will take longer to achieve than flying cars or 3D-printed human organs. For an economy that left the Great Recession behind six years ago, this stagnation is beyond frustrating.

Such a wide gap has compound effects over a woman’s lifetime: the typical woman will lose $530,000 over the course of her lifetime due to the wage gap; a college educated woman will lose $800,000. For an individual woman, this is an incredible, undeserved reduction in her lifetime earnings, compromising her ability to save for assets like a house or retirement fund or simply to make ends meet.

For families, the gender wage gap can make the difference between living below or above the poverty line, having funds for recreation and vacations or having none, having access to high-quality child care, schools, and colleges, or only being able to afford poorer quality alternatives or no pre-kindergarten or post-secondary education at all.

Equal Pay_PovertyFor the economy overall, unequal pay is holding back economic growth. IWPR estimates that nearly 60 percent of women would gain pay if they were paid the same as men with similar qualifications and hours of work.  Added across the U.S. economy, these gains amount to 2.9 percent of GDP, a growth rate equivalent to adding another state the size of Virginia. (This type of estimate assumes, of course, that, because of discrimination and other factors, women are currently paid below the level of their productivity; it also assumes no change in women’s education or work hours, which would surely increase if women could expect to earn equal pay.) Each woman, including those who would gain nothing, would earn $6,251 more annually on average, reducing poverty by half for all families with a working woman as well as working women who live alone.

But ensuring that women receive equal pay is not as easy as just paying women more for their work (though that would be a good start!). Businesses and policymakers both have a role to play to achieve the benefits of equal pay well before 2059. You can read my recommendations for how private and public policies can narrow, and eventually eliminate, the gender wage gap over at Fortune. (Hint: we need to address wage inequality by bringing up the bottom of the pay scale, and we also need to close the gender care gap.) It’s time we start taking achieving equal pay seriously.

Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., is an economist, MacArthur Fellow, and president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a nonprofit research institute in Washington, DC.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org

How Partners are Using IWPR’s Status of Women in the States Data

By Sarah Blugis, Communications Intern and Rachel Linn, Communications Associate

IWPR partnered with over 50 local, state, and national organizations for Status of Women in the States: 2015. Using Status of Women data, policymakers and advocates reach out to the media and raise awareness about women’s needs in the states and communities to advance the interest of women and their families.

The Seattle-based Women’s Funding Alliance is using findings from the Status of Women in the States to focus attention on women’s leadership and economic opportunity in Washington State. In addition to giving interviews to NPR affiliate KPLU and The Seattle Times, Women’s Funding Alliance staff traveled throughout Washington to share the data with employers, policymakers, program providers, funders, and advocates.

The Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts localized IWPR’s data for counties in their area, highlighting poverty rates in nearby cities, and held a press conference with the Mayor of New Bedford, MA. The group also sat down with local editorial boards to present data from the Status of Women in the States report, resulting in stories about the gender wage gap in the Fall River Herald and an interview with WBZ News Radio.

In Utah, the local YWCA issued a press release that generated media coverage on local TV, the local NPR affiliate KUER Utah, and in the Salt Lake Tribune. The Permanent Commission on the Status of Women in Connecticut has also used the data to attract coverage from the Hartford Business Journal, WTNH TV, FoxCT.com, and CTnews.com.

In Pittsburgh, the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania uses the Status of Women in the States report to inform their advocacy and grantmaking strategy. Their annual GirlGov program is designed to provide local girls with the opportunity to learn, first hand, about civics, government, philanthropy, community involvement, women’s history, and leadership. IWPR’s data on women in political leadership in the state was used to contextualize the importance of the program in a segment on WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR affiliate. The Women and Girls Foundation have also presented findings to their board of directors and donors and hosted briefings for members of the media, policymakers, and advocates to increase investment in women and girls’ health, education, and economic security in the region.

IWPR hopes that its partners across the country will continue using the Status of Women in the States report and accompanying interactive website (statusofwomendata.org) to inform their own advocacy, educate their communities, and advance the status of women in their states and the country overall.


To view more of IWPR’s research, visit IWPR.org