NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fraser Institute: Do Government Training Programs Work?

November 1, 1997

In a recent study, Canada's Fraser Institute looked at U.S. programs to train workers -- such as those targeted at welfare recipients, youths from low-income families and school dropouts. The study concluded these programs just aren't working.

According to the study, after massive federal investments in U.S. job-training programs over 30 years, the evidence suggests that workplace prospects for those with low skill levels and little education were not improved.

  • Programs designed to target single parents failed to achieve the goals set out by program administrators.
  • Programs often have no effect and -- even when outcomes are statistically significant -- the impact is not substantive enough to improve the income of welfare recipients.
  • In half the cases, training did not result in reductions in welfare rolls -- but even where there were reductions, they only ranged from 1.1 to 5.2 percentage points.

The Fraser study says improved education at the elementary and secondary level is the key to progress -- rather than intervention later in life.

Canada reportedly experiences many of the same problems with its public school system that we do. Noting that private schools in the U.S. educate pupils at less than one-half the per pupil cost of public schools, the report recommended adoption of a voucher program to enable students to attend private schools. It also heartily endorsed the charter school concept.

Source: Fazil Mihlar and M. Danielle Smith, "Government-Sponsored Training Programs: Failure in the United States, Lessons for Canada," Critical Issues Bulletin, November 1997, Fraser Institute, 626 Bute Street, Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6E 3M1, (604) 688-0221.


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