Mathematica Jobs Study Explores Impact of Social Enterprises on Employment and Life Stability

Huffington Post: "Important New Study with Potential to Create Tremendous Momentum"
Feb 05, 2015

REDF infographicIn a new report, results from the REDF-commissioned Mathematica Jobs Study provide evidence that social enterprises can improve lives and yield value to society. Social enterprises are mission-driven businesses that hire and assist people who are willing and able to work, but face great challenges in getting a job. These challenges can include youth and inexperience, homelessness, mental health disorders, or previous incarceration. 

Using a grant from the Social Innovation Fund, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, REDF helped expand and support social enterprises in California. In addition to employment opportunities, social enterprises provide on-the-job soft and hard skills development, counseling, and life-stability supports such as food, clothing, transportation, or housing assistance. 

Mathematica's evaluation found that social enterprises may help people find jobs, move toward economic self-sufficiency, and improve life stability. In the year after workers began their social enterprise jobs, employment increased from 18 to 51 percent; average monthly wage and salary income increased by 268 percent when compared to their situation prior to starting these jobs, while the total income from government benefits decreased from 71 to 24 percent; and the share of workers living in stable housing increased from 15 to 53 percent. Although these positive trends cannot be attributed entirely to social enterprise employment, a comparison between social enterprise workers in one organization and similar workers who did not work in the enterprise suggests that the social enterprise experience caused employment to increase by 19 percentage points in the year after the job began.

The study also found that social enterprises add value to society. For the average dollar spent by the social enterprises, there was a $1.34-$2.23 return on investment for society. This includes benefits for taxpayers from reductions in government transfer payments and increases in revenues for social enterprise businesses. 

Results from the Mathematica Jobs Study suggest that investing in the growth of social enterprises, as well as their additional support services for workers, can have a positive impact on people’s lives, while lessening the burden on government resources. 


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