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Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) reported RCT results for Padua, an intensive case management program for low-income adults, aimed at moving them permanently out of poverty. Quick take: High-quality RCT finds suggestive, but at best modest, effects on earnings, employment, etc over 2-5 yr follow-up.


  • Per the study: Padua is "a holistic, individualized wrap-around service intervention [that] includes a detailed assessment, an individualized service plan, intensive case management administered by a two-person team [&] temporary financial assistance." Cost is $23K/person.  

Study Design:

  • The study sample comprised 427 low-income adults in Tarrant County TX, randomly assigned to treatment (full Padua program) versus control (usual services).


  • At the 2-yr mark, the study survey found Padua increased earnings by 18% (vs a control average of $1149/month) & employment by 6% points (vs control group's 63%). But neither effect was statistically significant, so these effects are best viewed as suggestive (could be due to chance).

  • Also, surveys are vulnerable to "social desirability bias" - i.e., treatment group members know the program's goals & may overstate their workforce success to show they’ve made good use of the assistance.

  • The study also measured workforce outcomes with state records, & found near-zero impact on earnings & a non-significant 5% point increase in employment over 4.5 yrs (& similar over 2 yrs). Such records avoid social desirability bias but don't count informal (eg, gig) jobs, so may modestly understate employment/earnings for both T and C groups.

  • Finally, in the survey measures & state records, the study found no overall pattern of effects on other pre-specified main outcomes: debt, savings, household income, use of gov't assistance, or health.


  • Based on careful review, I believe this was a well-conducted RCT with important but mostly disappointing findings: Despite the program's intensity & cost, it didn't discernably lift people out of poverty & toward self-sufficiency.

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