Findings from the Transitional Living Program Youth Outcomes Study

Publication Date: September 30, 2021
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  • Pages: 32
  • Published: 2021

Introduction

Research Questions

  1. What are the housing, employment, earnings, and education outcomes among TLP participants before, during, and after TLP participation?
  2. What are TLP participants’ employment, earnings, and postsecondary education pathways before, during, and after TLP participation?
  3. Do TLP participants maintain employment and enrollment in postsecondary education?
  4. How might TLP services and TLP participants’ housing, employment, earnings, and education experiences have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

This report describes findings from the Transitional Living Program (TLP) Youth Outcomes Study (YOS). The TLP is a grant program for runaway and homeless youth ages 16 through 21, funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF),  TLPs provide a package of supports consisting of transitional housing, wrap-around support services, and intensive case management to provide safety and emotional support and help youth build self-sufficiency. Although the TLP has served youth for more than 30 years, little research exists on the outcomes of its participants.

ACF’s Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) and FYSB contracted with Abt Associates to evaluate the TLP. This report is one of three studies that is part of the Transitional Living Program Evaluation Studies. In March 2021, ACF published the TLP Special Population Demonstration Report. In the fall of 2021, ACF published the Transitional Living Program Pilot Test of a Randomized Controlled Trial: November 2016 to August 2017 report. These publications are available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/project/transitional-living-program-evaluation-studies-2014-2021.

Purpose

The YOS was conducted to better understand key youth outcomes in housing, employment, earnings, and education before, during, and after program participation. The report also explores how the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected TLP services and TLP participants’ experiences regarding outcomes of interest. The YOS was part of a larger ACF research effort aimed at measuring the effects the TLP may have on the lives of runaway and homeless youth.

Key Findings and Highlights

Housing: At the time data collection for the YOS ended, 56 percent of study participants had left TLP. Three-quarters (78%) of youth went to a permanent housing situation upon exiting TLP. Fewer than 1 in 10 (8%) experienced homelessness immediately upon leaving their program, with similar rates observed three months after exiting.

  • Employment: Youth employment rates were higher during TLP participation than before participation, with employment rates of 62 percent during versus 52 percent before participation, despite youth experiencing employment instability.
  • Earnings: Youth who were working earned an average of $2,258 per quarter, or about $9,000 annually (about 70% of the 2020 federal poverty guidelines for a single-person household), if they remained continuously employed. While youth were able to find jobs during TLP participation that had the potential to elevate their earnings above federal poverty guidelines, persistent employment instability may have prevented them from reaching a higher earnings level.
  • Education: TLP staff report that education goals may have been a lower priority for some youth relative to other targeted TLP goals. More than one-quarter (28%) of study participants were ever enrolled in a postsecondary education program over a 4-year period (which includes before and after TLP participation), with 2 percent completing an associate degree or certificate. The proportion of youth who were ever enrolled during TLP (15%) was lower than during the 18 months prior to TLP entry (22%).
  • COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic may have affected youth housing, employment, earnings, and education plans. One in 10 study participants (11%) reported entering TLP because of the pandemic and one-third of participants reported having lost or left a job because of the pandemic. The pandemic may have also affected study participants’ education: 8 percent reported they did not finish at least one of their courses because of the COVID-19 pandemic; 8 percent reported their education program closed; and 8 percent said their classes moved online but they were unable to attend.

Methods

The YOS relied primarily on the collection and analysis of existing program and administrative data to identify housing, employment, earnings, and education pathways, outcomes, and themes. These data were collected directly from youth study participants via a Background Information Form and one-on-one interviews, from TLP program staff via a Youth Information Form and a focus group, and from the National Directory of New Hires and National Student Clearinghouse administrative databases. For each of the study’s primary outcomes related to housing, employment, earnings, and education, the Study Team explored whether the outcomes differed by select youth and TLP characteristics. However, findings should be interpreted with caution due to study design limitations, particularly the lack of a comparison group. Differences or trends in outcomes reported for study youth cannot definitively be attributed to their participation in TLP.

Citation

Mahathey, Anna, Scott Brown, Tanya de Sousa, Karen Loya, Jessica Thornton Walker, and Alisa Santucci (2021). Findings from the Transitional Living Program Youth Outcomes Study, OPRE Report 2021-191, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.