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Exiting poverty: a systematic review of U.S. postsecondary education and job skills training programs in the post-welfare reform era

Sehun Oh (College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA)
Diana M. DiNitto (Steve Hicks School of Social Work, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA)
Yeonwoo Kim (College of Nursing and Health Innovation, The University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 6 January 2021

Issue publication date: 2 November 2021

944

Abstract

Purpose

This study aimed to (1) systematically identify evaluation studies of U.S. active labor market programs (ALMPs) focusing on postsecondary education and job skills training for low-income individuals with employment barriers (hereinafter, Human Capital Development [HCD] programs) since the U.S. federal welfare reform of 1996, and (2) provide a synthesis of common strategies used by programs that reported post-program earnings higher than poverty thresholds.

Design/methodology/approach

Using Population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcomes (PICO) criteria endorsed by the Cochrane Collaboration, we identified evaluation studies of HCD programs from seven electronic databases and experts' suggestions. Using data (e.g., post-program earnings, main types of services) extracted from the included studies, we describe common strategies used by the programs reporting earnings above the poverty level.

Findings

Of 877 studies identified from an initial search, 10 studies met our inclusion/exclusion criteria and thus were included in the final sample. Findings showed that HCD programs reporting earnings above the poverty level for a family of three were characterized by (1) curriculums targeting specific job sectors and occupations, (2) local employers' involvement in developing curriulums and providing work opportunities and (3) post-program job retention and career advancement services.

Originality/value

The present study used a systematic review approach to fill gaps in research regarding HCD-focused ALMPs in the U.S. post-welfare reform era by identifying common strategies the effective programs used to help participants obtain employment and exit poverty. Findings may inform the design and implementation of employment programs that will help low-income individuals with employment barriers acquire marketable knowledge and job skills, and thus increase their economic self-sufficiency via improved employment outcomes.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Funding: Research reported in this publication was supported by the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) under the 2019 SSWR Doctoral Fellows Award. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the SSWR.

Citation

Oh, S., DiNitto, D.M. and Kim, Y. (2021), "Exiting poverty: a systematic review of U.S. postsecondary education and job skills training programs in the post-welfare reform era", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 41 No. 11/12, pp. 1210-1226. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSSP-09-2020-0429

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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