Year Up

Updated: Jul 30, 2018
Evidence Rating:
Suggestive Tier


  • Program:

    A full-time, year-long workforce training program for economically-disadvantaged young adults that focuses on economic sectors with jobs in high demand—namely, information technology and financial services.

  • Evaluation Methods:

    A well-conducted randomized controlled trial (RCT) with a sample of 2,544 low-income adults age 18 to 24, who were neither in school full-time nor employed full-time, carried out at eight urban sites across the United States.

  • Key Findings:

    The program produced a 40 percent ($7,011) increase in participants’ annual earnings in the third year after random assignment, compared to the control group.

  • Other:

    (i) Longer-term follow-up is needed to determine whether the large effects found in year three endure long enough to justify the substantial program cost ($28,200 per participant).

    (ii) Year Up carefully screens applicants and enrolls those identified as being motivated to succeed and interested in career advancement; thus, the effects may not apply to young adults who fall outside such criteria.

Year Up is a national workforce training program for economically disadvantaged urban young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 that focuses on specific economic sectors with jobs in high demand—namely, information technology (IT) and financial services (hence the program’s classification as a “sectoral” training program). The program seeks to enroll young adults who have a high school diploma or equivalent but are neither in school full-time nor employed full-time, have manageable life challenges, and are motivated to succeed.

The program operates in two six-month phases. In the first phase, participants attend full-time training in IT and financial services. The training emphasizes the development of professional skills (e.g., writing, giving presentations, business etiquette) as well as technical skills (e.g., IT, quality assurance, financial operations). The second phase consists of a full-time internship in entry-level positions at local employers, often major firms. The program provides extensive supports, including weekly stipends to help cover transportation and other living costs (typically $150 per week during the training phase and $220 per week during the internship phase), mentoring, and post-program job search and placement services. In addition, Year Up partners with local colleges to enroll participants as students and award them college credit for successful completion of Year Up courses.

The cost of the program is about $28,200 per student, most of which ($16,700, or 59%) is borne by employers through payments to Year Up for interns.

Year Up’s website is linked here.

To see our full evidence summary:
Download PDF


Fein, David and Jill Hamadyk (2018). Bridging the Opportunity Divide for Low-Income Youth: Implementation and Early Impacts of the Year Up Program, OPRE Report #2018-65, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Roder, Anne, and Mark Elliott (2014). Sustained Gains: Year Up’s Continued Impacts on Young Adults’ Earnings. New York: Economic Mobility Corporation.

Howard Rolston, who is a consultant to Laura and John Arnold Foundation’s (LJAF) Evidence-Based Policy team, contributed to the early design and execution of the Year Up RCT in his former position at Abt Associates. He therefore recused himself from the LJAF team’s review of the study and interpretation of its findings.