Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year Up Program (May 2018)

Executive Summary:
Main Report:

This report provides encouraging evidence on the implementation and early impacts of the Year Up program, a year-long sectoral training program for low-income young adults. Using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) research design, the study found that Year Up increased participants’ average quarterly earnings by more than 50 percent. These are the largest earnings impacts recorded to date for a workforce development program evaluated in an RCT.

Earnings gains for the sample of 2,544 young adults studied persisted for at least two years following completion of the program. Young adults assigned to Year Up averaged 4 more college credits and were 18 percentage points more likely to receive a professional certification or license in the first 18 months compared to those in the control group.

Year Up targets young adults aged 18-24 with a high school credential who are underemployed or disconnected from school and work. It helps them secure good jobs in high-growth sectors (such as IT and financial services) in the short term and, in the longer term, complete a college degree. It is among nine career pathways programs being evaluated in the Pathways for Advancing Careers and Education (PACE) study sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families.

Operated by the nonprofit organization with the same name, Year Up provides six months of intensive training in technical and professional skills followed by six-month internships with major employers in IT, financial services and other rapidly growing sectors. The program also offers weekly stipends and other supports and the opportunity to earn up to 31 college credits at local college partners. Strong employer relationships are a hallmark of Year Up; more than half of the program’s per-participant cost is funded by employer payment for interns.

The study looked at Year Up sites in eight cities–Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence, the San Francisco-San Jose Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington DC—and found the sites implemented the design with high fidelity. Follow up of the sample in this initial implementation and early impacts report centered on 18 months and extended to 3 years for some outcomes. Future reports will examine program impacts for up to 6 years after program entry and include analyses of the program’s costs and benefits.

Fein, D. and Hamadyk, J. (2018). Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year Up Program, OPRE Report #2018-65, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To contact the first author, e-mail