Center for Employment Opportunities | GiveWell

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Center for Employment Opportunities

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GiveWell aims to find the best giving opportunities we can and recommend them to donors. We tend to put a lot of investigation into the organizations we find most promising, and de-prioritize others based on limited information. When we decide not to prioritize an organization, we try to create a brief writeup of our thoughts on that charity because we want to be as transparent as possible about our reasoning. The following write-up should be viewed in this context: it explains why we determined that (for the time being), we won't be prioritizing the organization in question as potential top charity. This write-up should not be taken as a "negative rating" of the charities. Rather, it is our attempt to be as clear as possible about the process by which we came to our top recommendations.

A note on this page's publication date

The last time we examined the charities working primarily in the U.S. was in 2010. As of 2011, we have de-prioritized further work on this cause. The content we created in 2010 appears below. This content is likely to be no longer fully accurate, both with respect to what it says about the organization and with respect to what it implies about our own views and positions.

Published: 2010

What do they do?

The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) provides employment assistance services for people with criminal records.1 CEO's program consists of a one week class followed by paid (minimum wage) work with a CEO work crew. CEO staff attempt to help clients find permanent jobs (once they feel the clients are ready), and continue to provide support to participants once they've found jobs.2

Does it work?

One recently conducted randomized-controlled trial evaluated the Center for Employment Opportunities' program, following participants and a control group over three years.3 The evaluation of the Center for Employment Opportunities found that in the first year after people entered the study, the program had increased participants' likelihood of being employed and level of earnings in the short term, but these results did not persist in the long-term (as of three years after participants had entered the program).4 The evaluation did identify a statistically significant impact on 1 of 8 criminal-activity-focused measures:5 the percentage of participants incarcerated at the three-year follow-up.6 Regarding the other 7 measures, the evaluation identified 6 apparent impacts that were not statistically significant but favored the program group, and 1 that favored the control group.7 We credit the Center for Employment Opportunities for its commitment to rigorously monitoring and evaluating its activities.


  • 1. "CEO addresses the relationship between work and crime. CEO offers comprehensive employment services exclusively for people with criminal records. CEO's model is based on a highly structured program of pre-employment training, short-term paid transitional employment and full-time job placement and retention services. Each year, CEO prepares more than 2,000 people to move into mainstream employment. As a leader in the field, CEO provides technical assistance for service providers and government officials across the nation and around the world. CEO also facilitates and performs research on work and crime, tests new ideas and disseminates findings." Center for Employment Opportunities, "What We Do."
  • 2. "The New York City-based Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) serves about 2,000 parolees each year. Participants begin with a four-day preemployment class and then are placed into a CEO work crew. The crews, supervised by CEO staff, do maintenance and repair work under contract to city and state agencies. Participants work four days per week and are paid the minimum wage; they are paid daily at the work site. The fifth day is spent in the program office, where participants meet with job coaches and job developers and attend supplemental activities, such as a fatherhood group. Each participant's job performance is rated daily in five categories corresponding to key soft skills. When deemed job-ready, participants work with a CEO job developer to find a permanent position. CEO continues to provide support after placement and also offers financial incentives for maintaining employment over time." Bloom 2010, Pg 19.
  • 3. "Several studies have described TJ [transitional jobs] programs and tracked their outcomes, but, until recently, there was no rigorous evidence on the impacts of these models. This is changing, however, as results begin to emerge from three ongoing evaluations of TJ programs that are using random assignment research designs: The Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) evaluation ... The Transitional Work Corporation (TWC) evaluation ... [and] The Transitional Jobs Reentry Demonstration (TJRD).... The CEO evaluation has released results covering three years after people entered the study." Bloom 2010, Pg 26-27.
  • 4.
    • "Figure 3 shows the employment rates for the program and control groups during each quarter of the follow-up period in both studies [of Center for Employment Opportunities and the Transitional Work Corporation]. The rates include both transitional jobs and any other jobs that were covered by unemployment insurance (UI).... Three patterns are evident in both studies. First, the employment rates for the control groups are quite low — typically below 40 percent. This indicates that both programs succeeded in targeting groups that had great difficulty finding employment. Second, as a result of the low employment rates for the control groups and the relatively high rates of TJ placement, both programs generated very large increases in employment early in the follow-up period. In the CEO study, the program group's employment rate was about 40 percentage points higher than the control group's rate in Quarter 1.... Third, the differences in employment between the two groups narrowed fairly quickly after individuals left the transitional jobs. This narrowing occurred in part because the control groups' employment rates rose over time (particularly in the TWC study) but mostly because the program groups' employment rates fell." Bloom 2010, Pgs 29-30.
    • "The CEO [Center for Employment Opportunities] evaluation has released results covering three years after people entered the study." Bloom 2010, Pg 27.
    • "CEO had no statistically significant impact on earnings overall, though the study could not reliably estimate earnings impacts in Year 1 of the study period, when the impact on employment was quite large. In sum, it appears that neither CEO [Center for Employment Opportunities] nor TWC led to sustained increases in employment." Bloom 2010, Pg 33.
    • "Both programs produced large though relatively short-lived increases in employment.... As operated during the studies, neither program generated long-term increases in employment or earnings. In other words, it appears that working in the programs' transitional jobs did not significantly improve participants' ability to find and hold regular jobs." Bloom 2010, Pgs 35, 37.
  • 5. The 8 recidivism-related outcomes during the first thee years of the study are: arrested; convicted of crime; convicted of violent crime; incarcerated; incarcerated for a new crime; incarcerated for a technical parole violation; total days incarcerated; arrested, convicted, or incarcerated. Bloom 2010, Pgs 36-37.
  • 6. 58% of those in the in program group vs 65% of those the in control group. From Bloom 2010, Pg 33, Table 2 or Pgs 36-37.
  • 7. The program group had less than the control group on all these outcomes except incarcerated for a technical parole violation. Impacts on the two outcomes convicted of a crime, and arrested, convicted, or incarcerated was statistically significant at p<0.10. For convicted of a crime: 43.1% in program group vs 48.8% in control group (p=0.078). For arrested, convicted, or incarcerated: 65.2% in program group vs 70.9% in control group (p=0.057). Bloom 2010, Table 2, Pgs 36-37.