Project QUEST

Updated: Mar 08, 2022
Evidence Rating:
Near Top Tier


  • Program:

    A workforce development program for low-income workers, to support them in training for well-paying careers in high-growth sectors of the local economy. The program version that has been rigorously evaluated focuses on training for healthcare sector employment.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    A well-conducted randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a sample of 410 low-income adults.

  • Key Findings:

    The program increased participants’ annual earnings by a statistically significant 20 percent ($5,726) in the ninth year after random assignment and a near significant 15 percent ($4,616) in the eleventh year after random assignment, compared to the control group.

  • Other:

    A study limitation is that its sample was geographically concentrated in San Antonio, Texas. Replication of these findings in a second trial, in another setting, would be desirable to confirm the initial results and establish that they generalize to other settings where the program might be implemented.

[Disclosure: Arnold Ventures provided funding for the nine-year follow-up of the QUEST RCT.[1]]

Project QUEST provides comprehensive support and resources to help low-income individuals enroll full-time in occupational training programs at local community colleges, complete the training, pass certification exams, and enter well-paying careers in high-growth sectors of the local economy (hence, the program is sometimes described as a “sectoral” training program). In the study described below, the program focused on jobs in the healthcare sector. Major components of the program are: required full-time enrollment in a college occupational training program that QUEST is partnered with, required weekly group or individual counseling sessions, financial assistance for tuition and other school-related expenses, and remedial instruction for those requiring it. Program services are provided for 23 months on average, and the program costs approximately $12,500 per participant. (All dollar amounts shown in this summary are constant 2019 dollars.)

Project QUEST’s website is linked here.

To see our full evidence summary:
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[1] Support for the initial six-year study came principally from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, with additional support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services through a contract with Abt Associates.

Elliott, M., & Roder, A. (2017). Escalating Gains: Project QUEST’s Sectoral Strategy Pays Off. New York: Economic Mobility Corporation. Click here for the full study report.

Roder, A., & Elliott, M. (2019). Nine Year Gains: Project QUEST’s Continuing Impact. Click here for the full study report.

Roder, A., & Elliott, M. (2020). Nine Year Education Gains: Project QUEST’s Impact on Student Success. Click here for the full study report.

Roder, A., & Elliott, M. (2021). Eleven Year Gains: Project QUEST’s Investment Continues to Pay Dividends. Click here for the full study report.