Moving beyond employment and earnings: reframing how youth livelihoods and wellbeing are evaluated in East Africa

Joan DeJaeghere, Emily Morris, Richard Bamattre

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Studies of youth skills development programs are often limited to assessing changes to employability and earnings over a short period of time, and often are unable to explain why impacts occurred or never transpired. This article, drawing on a capability approach, aims to expand the outcomes assessed as well as the time over which impacts might occur in order to understand how such programs can foster livelihoods and multidimensional wellbeing. This paper illustrates how findings from a mixed-methods longitudinal study of a livelihoods program in Uganda and Tanzania can address limitations of short-term, quantitative studies. Quasi-experimental results demonstrated the program had an impact on knowledge and skills necessary to secure a livelihood, but this paper draws on qualitative data over five years to show how two specific knowledge and skills are enacted toward livelihoods, or not. The findings discussed include how knowledge of savings is not enacted, in many cases, in the anticipated savings behaviors to secure and sustain livelihoods, and how confidence in work skills take considerable time and other supports to be enacted in securing and sustaining work. The qualitative longitudinal data provide rich detail of the contextual factors that influence youth’s livelihoods and wellbeing over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-685
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 27 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Mastercard Foundation in partnership with the University of Minnesota. We wish to thank David Chapman (co-PI of the grant that funded the larger project) and Nancy Pellowski Wiger, Director, for their support of this research. We also acknowledge the contributions of staff, research assistants, and participants from the NGO program in Tanzania and Uganda who assisted with data collection and analysis and general understanding of these youth’s lives in these communities. In addition, we extend our appreciation to many University of Minnesota graduate students who conducted interviews and did analysis for the larger research project. This work has been funded by Mastercard Foundation in a partnership with the University of Minnesota. The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of Mastercard Foundation or its partners.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, © 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Non-formal education
  • capability approach
  • mixed-methods
  • qualitative longitudinal studies
  • youth livelihoods


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