Job Corps Fraud Blog

Nationwide mismanagement of Job Corps calls for action!

Job Corps an Unfailing Record of Failure by David Muhlhausen, Ph.D.

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“During his Presidential radio address to the nation on April 18, 2009, President Barack Obama declared that:

In the coming weeks, I will be announcing the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective. In this effort, there will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects. All across America, families are making hard choices, and it’s time their government did the same.[1]

President Obama is correct to call for wasteful and ineffective programs to be placed on the chopping block. One such program is Job Corps, a job-training program for disadvantaged youth. The federal government spends about $1.5 billion per year on Job Corps and scientific evaluations have demonstrated that the federal government gets little in return on its investment. Based on this evidence, President Obama and Congress should move to eliminate this wasteful and unproductive program.

Evaluations of Job Corps

A recent impact evaluation of Job Corps (“2008 outcome study”), published in the December 2008 issue of the American Economic Review, is a follow-up to previous evaluations of the program.[2] The 2008 outcome study is based on a randomized experiment-the “gold standard” of scientific research-to assess the impact of Job Corps on participants compared to similar individuals who did not participate in the program.[3]

For a federal taxpayer investment of $25,000 per Job Corps participant,[4] the 2008 outcome study found:

  • Compared to non-participants, Job Corp participants were less likely to earn a high school diploma (7.5 percent versus 5.3 percent);[5]
  • Compared to non-participants, Job Corp participants were no more likely to attend or complete college;[6]
  • Four years after participating in the evaluation, the average weekly earnings of Job Corps participants was $22 more than the average weekly earnings of the control group;[7] and
  • Employed Job Corps participants earned $0.22 more in hourly wages compared to employed control group members.[8]

If Job Corps actually improves the skills of its participants, then it should have substantially raised their hourly wages. However, a $0.22 increase in hourly wages suggests that Job Corps does little to boost the job skills of participants.

Other impact evaluations of Job Corps have found similar results. In 2001, The National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes (“2001 outcome study”), measured the impact of Job Corps on participants’ employment and earnings.[9] While the 2001 outcome study found some increases in the incomes of participants, the gains were trivial. For example, compared to non-participants, the estimated average increase in the weekly incomes of all participants over four years was never more than $25.20.[10]

Another evaluation, The National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data (“2003 study”), was published in 2003, but the Labor Department withheld it from the general public until 2006.[11] The 2003 study found that Job Corps participation did not increase employment and earnings. Searching for something positive to report, the 2003 study concludes that “There is some evidence, however, of positive earnings gains for those ages 20 to 24.”[12]

Why Withhold the 2003 Study?

Based on survey data, the 2001 cost-benefit study contained in the 2001 outcome study assumed that the gains in income for participants will last indefinitely, a notion unsupported by the literature on job training.[13] But included in the 2003 study is a cost-benefit analysis that directly contradicts the positive findings of the 2001 cost-benefit study.

The 2003 study used official government data, instead of self-reported data, and used the more reasonable assumption that benefits decay, rather than last indefinitely.[14] Contradicting the 2001 cost-benefit study, the 2003 study’s analysis of official government data found that the benefits of Job Corps do not outweigh the cost of the program. Even more damaging, the 2003 study re-estimated the 2001 cost-benefit study with the original survey data using the realistic assumption that benefits decay over time. According to this analysis, the program’s costs again outweighed its benefits.

Is Job Corps Worth $1.5 Billion Per Year?

Some argue that Job Corps is worth $1.5 billion per year because there is “some evidence” of positive income gains for those aged 20 to 24.[15] This belief is based on the findings that these participants had consistently higher annual incomes from 1998 to 2001 than non-participants of similar age.[16] But this conclusion is questionable. In 1998, participants aged 20 to 24 experienced an average increase in annual income of $476 that, by traditional scientific standards, is statistically significant, meaning that the income gains are very likely attributable to Job Corps. For the remaining years, the income gains were positive, ranging from $429 to $375, but statistically insignificant, meaning that the findings cannot be attributed to participation in Job Corps. Thus, it cannot be concluded that Job Corps consistently raised the incomes of participants aged 20 to 24.

By the logic of the 2003 study, a stronger case can be made that Job Corps consistently reduced the incomes of female participants without children. In 1998 and 1999, childless female participants earned $1,243 and $1,401 less, respectively, than similar non-participants.[17] These findings are statistically significant, suggesting that Job Corps had a harmful effect. In 2000 and 2001, the earnings of childless female participants were still beneath those of their counterparts, but the differences are statistically insignificant, indicating that the declines in income are not attributable to Job Corps-just like most of the income gains for participants aged 20 to 24 in the 2003 study.

A Predictable Failure

The findings of the 2008 outcome study are not surprising because previous research has consistently found Job Corps to be ineffective at substantially increasing participants’ wages and moving them into full-time employment.[18]

The 2001 outcome study revealed that Job Corps had little impact on the number of hours worked per week. During the course of the study, the average time participants spent working each week never rose above 28.1 hours.[19] Average participants never worked more than two hours longer per week than those in the control group.[20]

Job Corps does not provide the skills and training necessary to substantially raise the wages of participants. Costing $25,000 per participant over an average participation period of eight months, the program is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

An Ideal Candidate for the Budget Chopping Block

Given the program’s poor performance and President Obama’s call for “the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective,” Job Corps is an ideal candidate for the budget chopping block.”

David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D., is Senior Policy Analyst in the Center for Data Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.

[1]President Barack Obama, “Weekly Address: President Obama Discusses Efforts to Reform Spending, Government Waste; Names Chief Performance Officer and Chief Technology Officer” Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, April 18, 2009, at http://polfeeds.com/item/Weekly-Address-President-Obama-Discusses-Efforts-to-Reform-Spending-Government-Waste-Names-Chief-Performance-Officer-and-Chief-Technology-Officer (May 4, 2009).

[2]Peter Z. Schochet, John Burghardt, and Sheena McConnell, “Does Job Corps Work? Impact Findings from the National Job Corps Study,” American Economic Review, Vol. 98, No. 5 (December 2008), pp. 1864-1886.

[3]Ibid.

[4]Job Corps serves about 60,000 new participants each year with an annual appropriation of approximately $1.5 billion.Thus, the average cost per participant is about $25,000. See Schochet et al., “Does Job Corps Work?” p. 1864.

[5]Schochet et al., “Does Job Corps Work?” p. 1871.

[6]Ibid.

[7]Ibid., p. 1872.

[8]Ibid.

[9]Peter Z. Schochet, John Burghardt, and Steven Glazerman, National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes (Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., June 2001).

[10]Ibid., p. 130.

[11]Erik Eckholm, “Job Corps Plans Makeover for a Changed Economy,” The New York Times, February 20, 2007, at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/20/washington/20jobcorps.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin (May 4, 2009), and Peter Z. Schochet, Sheena McConnell, and John Burghardt, National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data: Final Report (Princeton, N.J.: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., October 2003).

[12]Schochet et al., National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data: Final Report, p. 70.

[13]Pedro Carneiro and James Heckman, “Human Capital Policy,” National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 39495, February 2003.

[14]Schochet et al., National Job Corps Study: Findings Using Administrative Earnings Records Data: Final Report.

[15]Ibid., p. 70.

[16]Ibid., Table III.5, p. 66.

[17]Ibid., Table III.5, p. 67.

[18]Schochet et al., National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants’ Employment and Related Outcomes.

[19]Ibid., p. 127.

[20]Ibid.

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5 Responses - Comments are closed.

  1. Nancy says:

    Golden Egg is right. The golden egg is the American Taxpayers hard earned money. That the administrators of these programs so freely have access to. I’ve seen them steal it FIRST HAND, and believe me it goes SOUTH. And I don’t mean to little Rock.

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  2. Peter says:

    Have you been to one of these centers? I attended the one in Pittsburgh. The conditions were horrible. You are constantly stressed and they will warn you of potential gang fights in the lunch room. Maybe if the 25k per student (based on only 8 months or attendance?) were put towards hiring quality instructors and putting together actual libraries, computers, and other tools needed for the students, it wouldn’t be such a failure.

    Almost 8 years after completing the Culinary program there, I am now enrolled in college for Photography. I can tell you that Job Corps is about the people contracted to run them making the most profit. They do almost nothing for those of us who are actually living in their little hell holes.

    If it really costs that much, perhaps they should offer that 25k to people who meet the requirements as a grant for higher education? Maybe they should put together a better program? I agree, it is a waste.

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    • Hi Peter,

      For those of us who actually worked at a Job Corps Center WE KNOW what are you talking about. First of all, the “good” teachers don’t stay. They find out very soon that it’s not at all about the “quality of education” one gives the students, it’s who can most effectively manipulate the numbers in order to reach required monthly goals. And, most of the people in management who were setting the unattainable goals had little or no professional education or even knew what it mean to “educate”. Please read the section on “Our Stories” to see how I tried to cope without proper tools or facilities to teach. It was enormously frustrating to have no one listen when you asked for the minimum to get by in order to do your job.

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  3. A. Jobcorp. student says:

    I am currently attending a Job Corps and am very disappointed. I feel it is below standards.

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    • Howard says:

      Of course it’s below standard. Compare your Job Corps facility to any high school, junior college or vo/tech school that you know of.

      Is the Job Corps any where near as clean? How well maintained is the facility? How clean are the bathrooms in the academic and vocational buildings? Are the toilets continually stuffed, is there enough toilet paper? What about graffiti on the buildings and walls? Is there any landscaping to brighten the grounds? What about the library? Do you even have one? How many computers are there and what kind of hardware and software is there? What about the academic books and other learning materials? Are your teachers certified? Is the administration staff certified in educational administration? What about the food in the cafeteria? If you don’t have a culinary arts program as a trade, I’ll bet your food is full of fat, sugar, harmful additives, without any fiber or bulk, and highly processed – all things that are not healthy for you. And what kinds of activities are available after classes? How bored are you when classes are over? What is the ratio of staff to students after classes and on weekends?

      How many graduates have gone on to college or some other institution of higher learning where you have to compete with the general public – not another Job Corps and other Job Corps students. How many have been able to join the military?

      Of course it’s below standards – the contractors who run these centers are only interested in how much money they can make and not your well-being. They don’t care if the program is up to standard or not – Job Corps is a world unto itself. It’s the goose that laid the golden egg for these shysters.

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