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US Department of Labor published RCT results for 2 DOL-funded "Pay for Success" projects - Roca (in MA) for justice-involved young men, & Center for Employment Opportunities (in NY) for adult parolees. Quick take: No impacts (yet) on recidivism or employment; the RCTs are ongoing.


  • Roca - the Massachusetts project - is a 4-year program for young male parolees & probationers. It seeks to foster strong relationships with program staff to change destructive thinking patterns, & provides transitional employment & workforce training.  

  • Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), the NY project, is a 4-6 month program for high-risk adult parolees just released from prison. It provides training in life skills & work readiness, paid transitional employment, job placement assistance, & post-employment follow-up.

  • Under the Pay for Success (PFS) funding model, private investors (e.g., Goldman Sachs, philanthropic foundations) pay for program delivery, & get repaid by gov't - possibly with a return - only if the program achieves specific, pre-specified results as verified thru evaluation.


Study Design:

  • DOL to its credit required *rigorous* evaluations - resulting in sizable RCTs of both programs. The Roca RCT recruited a sample of 991 young men in 2014-15; the CEO RCT recruited a sample of 2,357 adult parolees from late 2013-2015.



  • Unfortunately, interim findings of both RCTs (avg of 1.5-2 yrs after study entry for Roca, and >1y for CEO) show near-zero impact on the targeted outcomes: days individuals were sentenced to incarceration, & employment rate. So, per the PFS model, investors weren't repaid.

  • But both projects & RCTs are continuing, in hope that impacts will materialize with larger samples & longer follow-up.



  • Frustratingly, DOL's report only provides high-level details on the RCTs, not enough to gauge study quality; hopefully DOL or other parties will release a full report in the future.

  • Disclosure: my former employer, the Laura & John Arnold Foundation, invested in both PFS projects & is helping fund the Roca RCT.

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