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In 2011, REDF launched a new portfolio with funding from the Social Innovation Fund and support from corporations, foundations, and individuals. REDF also committed to conducting an evaluation of the social enterprise approach and selected Mathematica Policy Research to design and implement the evaluation. The evaluation, which is called the Mathematica Jobs Study (MJS), is structured to address the general research question, How do social enterprises serve individuals with multiple barriers to employment?

Its focus is economic self-sufficiency and life stability for social enterprise workers hired from April 1, 2012, through March 31, 2013. The analysis looks at participants’ employment as the primary indicator of self-sufficiency, although the study also examines participants’ income and support from government. In addition, the study examines five outcomes related to life stability: housing, recidivism, physical health, mental health, and substance abuse.

Study Components

The MJS contains four integrated components:

  1. An implementation study of eight organizations that received REDF SIF funding in January 2012
  2. An outcomes study of the change in economic self-sufficiency and life stability for workers in seven organizations, from the period before they started the job until one year later
  3. A quasi-experimental impact study that complements the outcomes study by offering stronger internal validity (a more rigorous estimate of the effect of SE employment) at the expense of external validity (ability to generalize results)
  4. A cost benefit analysis that assessed whether the net value of the social enterpise to society as a whole—which includes the workers, the business enterprise, and taxpayers—outweighed its costs

Key Findings

  • Employment increased from 18 to 51 percent. The impact study suggests these changes might represent some improvement in workers’ employment status relative to a comparison group.
  • The percentage of total income from government transfers decreased from 71 to 24 percent. Evidence from the outcomes study suggests that SE workers had higher income one year after their SE jobs began. Total monthly income increased by 91 percent, from $653 to $1,246. Most of this growth stemmed from increases in wage and salary income, but other sources of income also shifted during the period.
  • The share of SE workers living in stable housing increased from 15 to 53 percent.
  • The social enterprise experience adds value to society. For every dollar the SE spent, the return on that investment was $2.23 for
    society as a whole.

The Report