- EMCF Evidence Base - Center for Employment Opportunities - Current Grantees - Grantees - EMCF
Center for Employment Opportunities

Center for Employment Opportunities

More than a Job, a three-year study released by MDRC in 2012, found that CEO’s program reduced by 16 to 22 percent the recidivism of participants who enrolled within three months of their release from prison. They were less likely than their counterparts in a control group to be arrested, convicted of a new crime, or reincarcerated, and the impact was greatest on those who were most disadvantaged and at greatest risk of returning to prison. The evaluator noted:

“Reductions in recidivism are difficult to achieve and have rarely been seen in rigorous evaluations such as this one.”

The study did not discern long-term impacts on employment, however. After the first year, when participants had left their transitional jobs, their employment and earnings were similar to those of control group members.

Based on these findings, the Vera Institute estimated the program’s total net benefit to taxpayers at about $4,100 per participant, and as high as $8,300 for someone recently released. Most benefits came in the form of reduced criminal justice expenditures and the value of services participants provided to government agencies at the program’s transitional job work sites. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote: 

“This initiative, by the Center for Employment Opportunities, more than paid for itself: each $1 brought up to $3.85 in benefits.”

Within EMCF’s framework for assessing an organization’s evidence of effectiveness, CEO’s program meets the standard of “proven effectiveness.”  

Acting on what it learned from the evaluation, CEO refined its recruitment strategy, invested significantly in job retention, and developed a pilot addressing the roots of behavioral issues that can lead to the resumption of criminal activity.  

MDRC published in 2016 the findings of implementation and fidelity studies it conducted at five sites: Albany, Buffalo and Rochester, NY; San Diego, CA; and Tulsa, OK. The studies found that CEO’s core program elements were replicated with fidelity to the model.


CEO is participating in a second randomized controlled trial as part of its Pay for Success agreement with New York State. This evaluation will follow New York City and Rochester participants, study whether enhancements to the program have improved long-term employment outcomes, and report as well on transitional jobs and recidivism at the conclusion of the program in 2020.