Over the past several decades, evaluations have produced a great deal of research on interventions designed to improve the employment outcomes of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients, beneficiaries of other public benefit programs, and other people with low incomes.  However, the sheer volume of research combined with the diversity of the findings can make it challenging to find applicable research, identify the most reliable and relevant studies, and use information from the studies to inform practical decision making.

To help decision makers use this research literature, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, within the Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has established the Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse. The Pathways Clearinghouse seeks to be a comprehensive resource that a range of stakeholders, including state and local TANF administrators, can use to identify the services that will best help people with low incomes succeed in the labor market.

Research Questions

What research exists on the effectiveness of interventions that have the primary aim of improving the employment and earnings of people with low incomes?

Which programs and policies have evidence of improving employment, earnings, education, and training for people with low incomes and of reducing public benefit receipt?


This report provides a protocol for the Pathways Clearinghouse review to promote consistency in review procedures and findings. It describes the methods and standards used by the Pathways Clearinghouse team to answer the research questions of interest.

Key Findings and Highlights

This protocol details the methods and standards used to conduct Pathways Clearinghouse reviews. It first details the scope of the review and how the Pathways Clearinghouse team searches for manuscripts containing eligible research, identifies eligible studies, and prioritizes research for review. Next, it documents how the team determines the quality of evidence provided by research studies, including how team members assess, document, and assign quality ratings to studies. Finally, it describes how team members group studies into interventions and assign effectiveness ratings to these interventions based on the results of the reviews and the information documented.


The Pathways Clearinghouse team developed this review protocol drawing on the Employment Strategies for Low-Income Adults Evidence Review protocol and the What Works Clearinghouse Procedures and Standards Handbooks (Version 4.0). The team consulted with Administration for Children and Families staff and the Pathways Clearinghouse Stakeholder and Expert Panel to support the review in meeting the needs of a wide range of stakeholders.


Rotz, Dana, Emily Sama-Miller, and Paul Burkander (2020). Protocol for the Pathways to Work Evidence Clearinghouse: Methods and Standards. OPRE Report #2020-44, Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.