Supporting Self-Employment as a Reemployment Strategy: Impacts of a Pilot Program for Dislocated Workers After 18 Months
- The Self-Employment Training (SET) pilot program resulted in a persistent increase in self-employment. At the time of the 18-month survey, 68 percent were self-employed, versus 56 percent of the control group.
- SET helped 3 to 4 percent of the program group become reemployed in any job—including both self-employment and wage/salary work—at the time of the 18-month survey. The program and control groups earned similar amounts, on average, during the 12 months before the survey.
- About 60 percent of both the program and control groups held a wage/salary job at the time of the 18-month survey, and the two groups both spent a similar amount of time (between 900 and 1,000 hours) in wage/salary work during the year before the survey. SET also led to an increase in dual employment—that is, holding a wage/salary job while pursuing self-employment—from 28 to 35 percent.
- SET led to greater receipt of self-employment assistance, especially individualized supports. SET nearly tripled the average number of personalized contacts with self-employment assistance providers between the time of enrollment and the 18-month survey—from 1.6 in the control group to 4.7 in the program group. The program also increased the share of people who attended in-person classes or training from 33 to 63 percent.
- SET more than doubled the share of people who received nonborrowed funds during that time—from 21 to nearly 49 percent.
The Great Recession and its aftermath rekindled interest in self-employment as a reemployment strategy for unemployed workers struggling to find jobs. Building on a history of past initiatives in response to growing worker dislocation, the U.S. Department of Labor commissioned the Self-Employment Training (SET) pilot program. Mathematica developed and evaluated the SET program, which operated in four sites between 2013 and 2017. Unemployed and underemployed workers who proposed businesses in their fields of expertise were eligible to participate. SET participants received free access to 12 months of case management, customized training and technical assistance, and up to $1,000 in seed capital microgrant funds for business start-up costs. This report presents findings from an impact study to assess the extent to which SET delivered self-employment supports, increased self-employment activity, and led to better reemployment outcomes.