Transitional jobs

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers

Transitional jobs are time-limited, subsidized, paid jobs intended to provide a bridge to unsubsidized employment. These positions are generally available to hard-to-employ individuals, such as those with limited or no job history, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, or individuals with criminal records. Transitional jobs can be in government, non-profit, or for profit organizations, and may be combined with training and services to help participants overcome barriers to employment and build work-related skills.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased employment

  • Increased earnings

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced recidivism

  • Reduced poverty

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that transitional and subsidized jobs programs increase employment and earnings for low income adults, youth, unemployed individuals, TANF recipients, and recently released former prisoners for the duration of their subsidized position1, 2, 3, 4, 5. However, these gains do not appear to last beyond the duration of the transitional job3, 4, 5.

Transitional job programs appear to have no effect on longer term employment among TANF recipients and individuals who have been incarcerated3, 4, 5; evaluations suggest programs may increase competitive employment and earnings after subsidized employment ends for other populations. The Catholic Charities Community Transitional Jobs Program6, Personal Roads to Individual Development and Employment (PRIDE)7, and some subsidized jobs programs supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), for example, appeared to have longer term effects. Ongoing employment stemming from ARRA-supported programs was largely in private firms, which are more likely to have funds to support additional employees than nonprofit or public employers2.

Transitional job programs may reduce recidivism among individuals who have been incarcerated4, 5, 7. The Center for Employment Opportunities’ program in New York City, for example, reduced recidivism among participants who entered the program within three months of release from prison, particularly those who were more disadvantaged and those most likely to re-offend5. However, the Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration, implemented in several Midwestern cities, did not appear to affect recidivism rates4.

Program costs vary based on program structure (e.g., maximum wage rates and hours worked, percentage of wages and payroll costs subsidized, and maximum time allowed for participation). For example, the cost of fully subsidizing the wages and payroll costs for a full-time job paying $10 per hour for six months is $12,2268. In Wisconsin’s implementation of ARRA-subsidized job funding, the average cost per subsidized placement was $7,9132.

A recent report projects that providing subsidized jobs to unemployed and underemployed individuals in families with children would reduce child poverty by 11%--1.2 million children--with the greatest benefit among black children9. Provision of jobs at this scale would cost approximately $22.9 billion10.

Income gains to participants in transitional and subsidized jobs programs may be offset by reduced government benefits and increased taxes1, 10

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Transitional jobs programs exist throughout the country11, but are not universally available.

Two multisite projects, the federal Department of Labor’s Enhanced Transitional Jobs Demonstration and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Subsidized and Transitional Employment Demonstration, are currently testing new subsidized employment models for hard-to-employ populations such as welfare recipients, former prisoners, and low income noncustodial parents12.

In 2013, Colorado established a transitional jobs program that gives priority to unemployed or underemployed non-custodial parents, veterans, or displaced workers that are fifty years of age or older13.

Implementation Resources

NTJN - National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN). Heartland Alliance.

CEO - Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO). Change that works.


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1 Mathematica-Maxwell 2015 - Maxwell NL, Rotz D.  Building the employment and economic self-sufficiency of the disadvantaged: The potential of social enterprises. Princeton: Mathematica Policy Research (MPR); 2015.

2 EMC-Roder 2013 - Roder A, Elliott M. Stimulating opportunity: An evaluation of ARRA-funded subsidized employment programs. New York: Economic Mobility Corporation (EMC); 2013.

3 OPRE-Butler 2012 - Butler D, Alson J, Bloom D, et al. What strategies work for the hard-to-employ: Final results of the hard-to-employ demonstration and evaluation project and selected sites from the employment retention and advancement project. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2012.

4 MDRC-Jacobs 2012 - Jacobs E. Returning to work after prison: Final results from the transitional jobs reentry demonstration. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2012.

5 OPRE-Redcross 2012 - Redcross C, Millenky M, Rudd T, Levshin V. More than a job: Final results from the evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) transitional jobs program. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS); 2012.

6 CLASP-Baider 2006 - Baider A, Frank, A. Transitional jobs: Helping TANF recipients with barriers to employment succeed in the labor market. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP); 2006.

7 MDRC-Bloom 2010a - Bloom D. Transitional jobs: Background, program models, and evaluation evidence. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2010.

8 CBPP-Pavetti 2011 - Pavetti L, Schott L, Lower-Basch E. Creating subsidized employment opportunities for low-income parents: The legacy of the TANF emergency fund. Washington, DC: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP); 2011.

9 Urban-Giannarelli 2015 - Giannarelli L, Lippold K, Minton S, Wheaton L. Reducing child poverty in the US: Costs and impacts of policies proposed by the Children's Defense Fund. Washington, DC: Urban Institute; 2015.

10 CDF 2015 - Ending child poverty now. Washington, DC: Children's Defense Fund (CDF); 2015.

11 NTJN - National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN). Heartland Alliance.

12 MDRC 2013 - Subsidized employment: A strategy for bad economic times and for the hard-to-employ. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC); 2013.

13 NCSL-CS Legislation 2013 - National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL). 2013 Child support-related legislative enactments by state.

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