View definitions of terms used throughout the Pathways Clearinghouse.



Reductions in payment for failing to comply with mandated services.


For this review, a period lasting 18 months or fewer after participants are first offered services.

Soft skills training

Training in so-called soft skills, such as punctuality, manners, professional dress, interactions with colleagues, or conflict management. Sometimes also called life skills training.

Standardized effect size
Standardized effect size is a standardized measure of the magnitude of the impact of the intervention, or the difference in outcomes between the intervention group and the comparison group. The effect size is calculated by dividing the impact shown in the study by the standard deviation for that measure, which measures the diversity of the study sample. Because they are standardized, the effect sizes can be directly compared across outcomes and across interventions. An effect size greater than 0.25 or less than -0.25 is considered moderate to large, meaning that the intervention produced a big change in the outcome. A standardized effect size of 0.25 is equivalent to an increase in annual earnings of $5,229, and increase in the percent employed of 10.3 percentage points, and increase of $688 in annual public benefit payments, or an increase on 12.5 percentage points in the number of people with a degree or credential. We consider a decrease in public benefit receipt to be favorable.
Statistical significance

The likelihood that a study finding is due to the intervention, rather than due to chance. The Pathways Clearinghouse will consider a finding to be statistically significant if the p-value of a two-sided hypothesis test of whether an effect is equal to zero is less than 0.05.


An analysis of a distinct implementation of an intervention.

Study quality ratings

Studies vary in terms of their quality, or rigor. This variability in quality can result either from the way a study was designed or the way it was executed. Study quality affects the confidence we can have in the study’s findings. Three possible ratings—high, moderate, and low—describe our confidence that a given study’s finding is because of the intervention. We assign the study quality rating based on our assessment of its quality. For studies that include multiple findings, we might assess study quality for each finding. The study quality rating is the highest rating assigned to any of the findings. In the Pathways Clearinghouse, study quality ratings only apply to randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental design studies.

  • HighHigh. The quality of the study is high, meaning we can be fairly confident in the study findings. Strong evidence shows that the study finding is solely attributable to the intervention examined. This rating is reserved for study findings from high quality RCTs with low attrition of sample members.
  • ModerateModerate. The quality of the study is moderate, meaning we can be somewhat confident in the study findings. However, other factors not accounted for in the study might also have contributed to the findings. This applies to findings from random assignment studies that, because of flaws in the study design or analysis (for example, high sample attrition), do not meet the criteria for the high rating but satisfy other design criteria. We also assign the moderate rating to study findings from well-executed QEDs.
  • LowLow. The quality of the study is low, meaning we cannot have much confidence in the study findings. Other important factors could have influenced the study findings, and the study did not account for them. Study findings that do not meet the high or moderate ratings criteria receive the low rating.

Overall, a study receives the highest study quality rating of any finding in that study. More information about study quality ratings is available in the Protocol for the Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse.


A subset of individuals examined in a study who share a particular characteristic (for example, single parents or women).

Subsidized employment

Employment that is partially or fully paid for by an external funder (not the employer).

Substance use disorder treatment and mental health services

Services to treat clients for substance use disorder or mental health diagnoses.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, the largest of the domestic nutrition assistance programs administered by the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides food assistance to individuals and households in need. The assistance is provided through electronic benefit cards participants can use to purchase food. Most individuals whose income and resources fall below certain federally-determined thresholds, are eligible for SNAP.


We have some evidence that the intervention improves outcomes. These ratings are domain specific, meaning that the intervention is considered supported only for the particular domains for which we have given this rating. These interventions have at least one study of moderate or high quality and show evidence of favorable findings in the domain, but the evidence is less conclusive than that for well-supported interventions.

Supportive services

Money or vouchers to fund child care, transportation (such as gas cards or tokens), or other supports to help clients search for work or engage in a training program.