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date: 14 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

In spite of a much improved labor market, the outcome of a leading evaluation report on reemployment programs in the Netherlands turned out negative. This result might be due to limitations of the evaluation method used by the researchers, who had to content themselves with a nonexperimental approach. Currently, for many evaluation researchers, the experimental method stands out as the superior design, especially when combined with a meta-analysis over several trials. We show, however, that experimental evaluations do not solve the uncertainties in this field. Meta-analyses of evaluation studies in Europe and the United States produced strikingly mixed results. Efforts to trace their diversity to variations in reemployment programs have not been very successful. This is mainly because of the “black box character” of many experimental evaluations, which offer little information about the content of the programs. Following “realistic evaluation,” we argue for a focus on the theories behind these programs in evaluation research. To this end, reemployment services are depicted in twelve core (mediating) mechanisms.

Keywords: reemployment services, realistic evaluation, experimental versus nonexperimental designs, meta-analysis, intervention strategies, mediating mechanisms, active labor market policy

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