Working Credit Study


MDRC, in partnership with Working Credit, a Chicago-based financial counseling nonprofit, the New York City Department of Social Services (DSS), and the New York City Department of Homelessness Services (DHS), is conducting a feasibility study to explore whether Working Credit’s financial counseling services can help residents of DHS’s shelters for families and children improve their credit scores and housing outcomes.

The initiative is a response to a concern voiced by parents in DHS’s family shelter system. According to officials at DHS, shelter residents worry that even if they can obtain housing subsidies, their credit scores or lack of credit will make it very difficult for them to move into private housing. By addressing credit and related financial concerns, Working Credit’s financial counseling program is intended to enhance the chances that these families will achieve stable housing, avoid future homelessness, and improve their overall financial security.

Design, Sites, and Data Sources

Resident Advisors: The study team will recruit and collaborate with advisors with life experiences in the shelter system on research operations design, implementation research, and a randomized control trial pilot. This approach enables MDRC to better understand the context within which the Working Credit program will be operating, help explain observed changes in outcomes, and inform the design of research procedures and data collection activities in culturally relevant ways for a full-scale trial.

Random Assignment Pilot and Data Sources: The research team will pilot random assignment as part of a feasibility study. Findings will draw primarily from the study’s baseline survey, participation data from Working Credit, interviews with study participants, and credit reports data. 

Sites: MDRC is conducting a feasibility study with two DHS family and children’s shelters.  If the feasibility results produce a recommendation for a full-scale study, more shelters will be invited to participate in the evaluation.

Key Research/Operational Questions 

The feasibility study seeks to answer the following questions to inform whether a full-scale study should be conducted.

  • Can the study team recruit enough shelter residents for the evaluation to have adequate statistical power?
  • Is Working Credit’s program sufficiently stable within New York City’s shelter system to be evaluated?
  • Is a strong contrast likely to emerge in service engagement and credit score improvements between the program and the control groups?
  • Can the necessary data on financial services, credit reports, and housing stability be collected for the program and the control groups?
  • What study enrollment procedures need to be in place to work at scale in the NYC shelter system?