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Building in an Evaluation Component for Active Labor Market Programs: A Practitioner's Guide


  • David E. Card


  • Pablo Ibarraran


  • Juan Miguel Villa



The guide outlines the main evaluation challenges associated with ALMP’s, and shows how to obtain rigorous impact estimates using two leading evaluation approaches. The most credible and straightforward evaluation method is a randomized design, in which a group of potential participants is randomly divided into a treatment and a control group. Random assignment ensures that the two groups would have had similar experiences in the post-program period in the absence of the program intervention. The observed post-program difference therefore yields a reliable estimate of the program impact. The second approach is a difference in differences design that compares the change in outcomes between the participant group and a selected comparison group from before to after the completion of the program. In general the outcomes of the comparison group may differ from the outcomes of the participant group, even in the absence of the program intervention. If the difference observed prior to the program would have persisted in the absence of the program, however, then the change in the outcome gap between the two groups yields a reliable estimate of the program impact. This guideline reviews the various steps in the design and implementation of ALMP’s, and in subsequent analysis of the program data, that will ensure a rigorous and informative impact evaluation using either of these two techniques.

Suggested Citation

  • David E. Card & Pablo Ibarraran & Juan Miguel Villa, 2011. "Building in an Evaluation Component for Active Labor Market Programs: A Practitioner's Guide," SPD Working Papers 1101, Inter-American Development Bank, Office of Strategic Planning and Development Effectiveness (SPD).
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:spdwps:1101

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. Ashenfelter, Orley & Card, David, 1985. "Using the Longitudinal Structure of Earnings to Estimate the Effect of Training Programs," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 648-660, November.
    7. Imbens, Guido W. & Lemieux, Thomas, 2008. "Regression discontinuity designs: A guide to practice," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 615-635, February.
    8. Charles F. Manski, 1989. "Anatomy of the Selection Problem," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 343-360.
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    Cited by:

    1. Deshpande, Ashwini & Desrochers, Alain & Ksoll, Christopher & Shonchoy, Abu S., 2017. "The Impact of a Computer-based Adult Literacy Program on Literacy and Numeracy: Evidence from India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 451-473.
    2. Olsson, Martin, 2013. "Employment Protection and Parental Child Care," Working Paper Series 952, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
    3. Martin Olsson & Joacim Tåg, 2017. "Private Equity, Layoffs, and Job Polarization," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(3), pages 697-754.
    4. Loi, Massimo & Rodrigues, Margarida, 2012. "A note on the impact evaluation of public policies: the counterfactual analysis," MPRA Paper 42444, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Arni, Patrick, 2012. "Kausale Evaluation von Pilotprojekten: Die Nutzung von Randomisierung in der Praxis," IZA Standpunkte 52, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Schneider Hilmar & Zimmermann Klaus F. & Uhlendorff Arne, 2013. "Ökonometrie vs. Projektdesign: Lehren aus der Evaluation eines Modellprojekts zur Umsetzung des Workfare-Konzepts," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 233(1), pages 65-85, February.
    7. Adrian Chadi & Clemens Hetschko, 2015. "How Job Changes Affect People's Lives: Evidence from Subjective Well-Being Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 747, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

    More about this item


    Active Labor Market Programs; Policy Evaluation; Randomized Trials; Difference in Difference; Average Treatment Effect on the Treated; Development Effectiveness;

    JEL classification:

    • C21 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Cross-Sectional Models; Spatial Models; Treatment Effect Models
    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • H43 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Project Evaluation; Social Discount Rate
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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