Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE)

The Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) project, formerly known as Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency, is a rigorous evaluation of next-generation strategies for increasing the economic self-sufficiency of low-income individuals and families.

The Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) project, formerly known as Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency, is a rigorous evaluation of next-generation strategies for increasing the economic self-sufficiency of low-income individuals and families. PACE aims to produce methodologically rigorous evidence on the effectiveness of nine selected career pathways approaches that will address issues of interest to federal, state, and local policymakers and practitioners and have significant influence on policy and practice. The evaluation uses a random assignment methodology.

The evaluation includes an impact study and an implementation study.

  • Impact Study: The impact study measures differences between the treatment and control group members on main and intermediate outcomes. Main outcomes include educational outcomes (e.g., persistence in education, receipt of certificates and degrees) and employment and earnings-related outcomes. Analyses also will assess whether impacts vary by subgroup, and estimate impacts for intermediate outcomes in the theory of change for each program. The PACE team will analyze and report findings for each program separately. The first impact reports will cover approximately 18 months of follow-up after the point of random assignment. Follow-up impact reports will cover 36 months and 72 months after random assignment.
  • Implementation Study: The implementation study describes and documents the design and operations of each of the nine PACE programs. It provides contextual information for understanding and interpreting the impact estimates and findings on implementation experiences to guide future program designs and implementations.

The study is led by Abt Associates. Key evaluation partners include the American Public Human Services Association, MEF Associates, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Governors Association, the University of Michigan, and the Urban Institute.

(One-minute video providing overview of PACE Study)


In 2007, ACF initiated the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education project, a multi-site, random assignment evaluation of promising strategies for increasing employment and self-sufficiency among low-income families. Eligible participants were randomly assigned to treatment or control groups between November 2011 and December 2014. The final PACE 18-Month reports were submitted to ACF between September 2016 and September 2018. The 36-Month Reports will be submitted in 2019 and the 72-Month Reports in 2021.

PACE Partner Sites

PACE includes nine programs in 18 locations across the United States. These programs are housed in community colleges, community-based organizations and non-profits, and workforce agencies.

The nine PACE programs are: Carreras en Salud: Instituto del Progreso Latino, Des Moines Area Community College, Madison Area Technical College, Pima Community College, San Diego Workforce Partnership, Valley Initiative for Development and Advancement, Washington I-BEST program in Bellingham Technical College, Everett Community College, Whatcom Community College, Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, and Year Up.


PACE Partners and Sponsors

Primary Evaluation Sponsor

OPREThe PACE evaluation is funded by The Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE). OPRE is the principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of programs designed to improve the economic and social well-being of children and families.

Lead Evaluator

Abt Associates logoAbt Associates is a mission-driven, global leader in research and program implementation in the fields of health, social and environmental policy, and international development. Known for its rigorous approach to solving complex challenges, Abt Associates is regularly ranked as one of the top 20 global research firms and one of the top 40 international development innovators. The company has multiple offices in the U.S. and program offices in more than 40 countries.

Evaluation Partners

Abt Associates has several partners who are assisting with the PACE evaluation:

APHSA logoAmerican Public Human Services Association (APHSA) is a bipartisan organization of state and local human service agencies and individuals that develops and promotes policies and practices to improve the health and well-being of families, children, and adults.


MEF AssociatesMEF Associates works to improve the lives of vulnerable children and youth, adults, and families through evaluation, research, and analysis to support the effectiveness of programs designed to help them.


NCSL logoNational Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a bipartisan organization that provides research, technical assistance, and information to policymakers in the nation’s 50 states, its commonwealths, and territories.


NGA logoNational Governors Association (NGA) is a public policy organization that serves as the collective voice of the nation’s governors to promote visionary state leadership and share best practices.


Urban Institute LogoUrban Institute fosters sound public policy and effective government by analyzing policies, evaluating programs, and informing community development to improve social, civic, and economic well-being.


University of Michigan The University of Michigan is working with the research team to conduct in-depth interviews with a sample of the study’s treatment and control group members.




Other Project Supporters

A number of foundations provided generous support to individual PACE sites to help them increase their scale to enable evaluation and/or enhance their programs. Open Society Foundations made a generous grant to support the PACE sites early in the study. Other supporters of PACE programs include The Joyce Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, The Hearst Foundation and the Meadows Foundation.

Additional Links

Information for PACE Participants


PACE Project Directors
Karen Gardiner
Principal Associate
Abt Associates

Larry Buron
Principal Associate
Abt Associates

Federal Project Officers
Nicole Constance
Social Science Research Analyst
Administration for Children and Families

Amelia Popham
Social Science Research Analyst
Administration for Children and Families

Other ACF-Sponsored Career Pathways Studies