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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

NBER Working Papers by Susan Houseman

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Working Papers

April 2012The Effect of Work First Job Placements on the Distribution of Earnings: An Instrumental Variable Quantile Regression Approach
with David H. Autor, Sari Pekkala Kerr: w17972
Federal and state employment programs for low-skilled workers typically emphasize rapid placement of participants into jobs and often place a large fraction of participants into temporary-help agency jobs. Using unique administrative data from Detroit's welfare-to-work program, we apply the Chernozhukov-Hansen instrumental variables quantile regression (IVQR) method to estimate the causal effects of welfare-to-work job placements on the distribution of participants' earnings. We find that neither direct-hire nor temporary-help job placements significantly affect the lower tail of the earnings distribution. Direct-hire placements, however, substantially raise the upper tail, yielding sizable earnings increases for more than fifty percent of participants over the medium-term (one to two year...
November 2005Temporary Agency Employment as a Way out of Poverty?
with David Autor: w11742
The high incidence of temporary agency employment among participants in government employment programs has catalyzed debate about whether these jobs help the poor transition into stable employment and out of poverty. We provide direct evidence on this question through analysis of a Michigan welfare-to-work program in which program participants were randomly allocated across service providers ('contractors') with different job placement practices. We draw on a telephone survey of contractors and on administrative program data linked with wage records data on all participants entering the program over a three-and-a half-year period. Our survey evidence documents a consensus among contractors that temporary help jobs are generally easier for those with weak skills and experience to obtain, bu...

Published: Blank, Rebecca, Sheldon Danziger and Robert Schoeni (eds.) Working and Poor: How Economic and Policy Changes are Affecting Low‑Wage Workers. New York: Russell Sage Foundation Publications, 2006.

Do Temporary Help Jobs Improve Labor Market Outcomes for Low-Skilled Workers? Evidence from 'Work First'
with David H. Autor: w11743
A disproportionate share of low-skilled U.S. workers is employed by temporary-help firms. These firms offer rapid entry into paid employment, but temporary-help jobs are typically brief, and it is unknown whether they foster longer-term employment. We exploit a unique aspect of the city of Detroit's welfare-to-work program, in which one in five jobs taken is obtained with a temporary-help firm, to identify the effects of temporary-help jobs on the subsequent labor market advancement of low-skilled workers. Welfare participants are assigned on a rotating basis to one of numerous program providers that have substantially different placement rates into temporary-help and regular ('direct-hire') jobs but offer otherwise standardized services. This gives rise to variation in job-taking rates th...

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Contact and additional information for this authorAll NBER papers and publicationsNBER Working Papers onlyInformation about this author at RePEc

 
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