Subsidized Employment Lab

Evidence meets practice to promote economic security

The Subsidized Employment Lab is a research hub dedicated to engendering scientific understanding of the effectiveness of existing subsidized employment programs, experimenting with new or refined labor market programs, and promoting evidence-based practice. Subsidized employment programs provide temporary work placements—to cultivate critical experience and job skills—to generally low-income individuals who experience multiple and chronic barriers to work. 

What impact do these programs have on participants’ abilities to find and retain employment or experience earnings gains? Do these programs lead to long-term economic security or mobility of participants? Are there spillover effects through reduced use of other public programs? Which subsidized employment models work best for whom? These are the types of questions we seek to answer.


What is our long-term vision? 

Conduct policy experiments and evaluations of subsidized employment and related public programs to understand what works, to what extent, and for whom

Facilitate local and state agencies in building capacity to conduct reproducible research and continuous monitoring to best serve their populations

Shape evidence-based policies to promote economic security of vulnerable individuals and families


What are we doing now?

Developing Collaborative Partnerships

We have launched partnerships with county welfare agencies in California that each implement a variety of public programs, including subsidized employment programs. What’s unique about these partnerships? Beyond being a data collaboration, we actively work with the agencies to develop a policy-relevant research agenda, focusing on meeting counties’ information needs to tailor and improve program delivery, and creating an essential research and policy feedback loop. 

Building a Big Data Infrastructure 

The administrative data that the county welfare agencies collect about their programs have wide-ranging utility for long-term program evaluation, monitoring, and decision-making. In partnership with the welfare agencies, we are developing a big data infrastructure encompassing rich, longitudinal microdata related to program participation for recipients of public programs such as subsidized employment, TANF, SNAP, and General Assistance linked to administrative data on economic outcomes.

Evaluating the Expanded Subsidized Employment Program

One of the first programs we have evaluated—leveraging administrative data—is California’s Expanded Subsidized Employment (ESE) program created through Assembly Bill 74 (Chapter 21, Statutes of 2013). Implemented at the county level, the ESE is an expansive program intended to prepare TANF-eligible individuals for unsubsidized employment. ESE programs serve diverse client populations, cover numerous industries and labor markets, and utilize different program models. We are conducting a representative evaluation to study the impact of ESE on outcomes such as post-program employment, earnings, and welfare use, including understanding treatment heterogeneity across racial, ethnic, and other groups. Since we are working directly with the agencies that have the latitude to shape the ESE programs, this evaluation will be consequential in helping counties foster client-centric and evidence-based service delivery with the intention to reduce disparities and promote economic security.

Our Current Partners

  • Contra Costa County Employment & Human Services
  • County of Santa Clara Social Services Agency
  • County of Ventura Human Services Agency
  • Merced County Human Services Agency
  • San Francisco Human Services Agency
  • Santa Cruz Human Services Agency 
  • Sonoma County Human Services Agency

We are continuing to develop partnerships with county agencies. If you are interested, please contact Rosina Pradhananga at