Psychological Self-Sufficiency (PSS) Research

PSS Research Program Overview

PSS research has focused on disconnected workers and long-term unemployed jobseekers, namely low-income and low-skilled individuals who lack education and have limited human capital. Participants at our community partners are challenged with a host of employment barriers, live in areas of concentrated poverty and joblessness, and have difficulty finding and keeping jobs in the Chicago region and other areas.

PSS is a “process”-oriented success measure in workforce development that captures one’s capacity and work readiness. Perceived employment barriers and employment hope make up PSS. It complements the “outcome”- driven ESS by capturing an intermediary output.

PSS Research Summary: Find a copy of the outline here.

Perceived employment barrier measures low-income jobseekers’ own perception of barriers to securing a job.

Employment hope measures the internal strength resource one must possess, nurture, and sustain to balance the harsh realities of multiple personal and contextual obstacles in life.

PSS measures can be found at the following link.

Theoretical Model from PSS to ESS

Support, Employment Hope, and Economic Self-Sufficiency Among Low-Income Jobseekers

“So psychological [self-sufficiency] is less about just somebody’s mindset or their internal motivation alone, but is largely this process of how one would become empowered over time and throughout the whole life course to reach goals as a piece of any type of outcome or goals that they conquer.”

In this episode, our guest Dr. Philip Hong describes his work exploring how welfare reform efforts play out through the eyes and in the lives of people living them. Utilizing a social justice and person-in-environment perspective, he discusses what he is learning about the role of hope and psychological self-sufficiency as articulated by client recipients. LEARN MORE

PSS Surveys

CROSS collects and analyzes PSS survey data on measures of character traits, PSS, and ESS by following the participants from the beginning stage of participating in a workforce development program to post-employment placement. 

PSS Survey Collection Schedule

PSS Research Project Funding

PSS research and CROSS evaluation research have a history of being funded by the following supporters and partners: 

PSS Research Continues as Community Research on Self-Sufficiency (CROSS) [2022-]

PSS research continues with a new home at the University of Georgia School of Social Work.

Center for Research on Self-Sufficiency (CROSS) [2016-2022]

CROSS Research Team at Loyola University 2016-2022

CROSS is a community-embedded research center that started within the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago in 2016 to serve the greater communities of Chicago. CROSS has conducted PSS research in collaboration with community-based organizations to empower agency efficacy and to strengthen human-centered programming by examining the PSS data over time as a process.

CROSS-ing the Lines of Divide and into the Depths of Community for Innovation and Impact

PSS Application to Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB)'s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program

Dr. Hong provided keynote presentations on the topic of "Creating Pathways to Optimal Health for Youth: Exploring the A-F Topics." He shares how learning about the psychosocial development of youth relative to culture, environment, trauma, and their lived experiences can help them understand potential pathways to future opportunities.

CROSS in the Community: Psychological Self-Sufficiency (PSS) Research

CROSS conducts PSS research in collaboration with community-based organizations to empower agency efficacy and to strengthen human-centered programming by examining the PSS data over time as a process. 

Transforming Impossible into Possible (TIP)®: How the Research-Informed Model Delivers the TIPPING Solution

How are you TIPPING? TIP® is TIP Institute's community-engagement and support resource to help agencies find the connection with their clients and build rapport in a relational way to strengthen organizational efficacy and program outcomes. TIP® was designed by Dr. Philip Hong to help increase program participants' PSS as they strive to achieve their short-term and long-term goals. 

Beyond the Data: Real Stories of the Great Resignation  (2021)

What is causing the workforce disruption one academic called The Great Resignation? In August, more than 4.3 million people quit their jobs and in September, another 4.4 million did the same.  At the same time, job openings were at record levels. Closer to home, local media recently reported that employment in Illinois dropped by 13%, or more than 800,000 jobs, during the worst of the pandemic from January to April of 2020.  Yet, the return to work for Illinois, especially for those workers most affected–women and those historically underserved–hasn’t been as strong as in other parts of the country. Dr. Philip Hong joined the panel podcast sponsored by the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership to discuss this issue.

MIT SOLVE's 'Unbundle Policing: Reimagine Public Safety Challenge' Incubator (2021)

In partnership with MIT Solve, Stand Together Ventures Lab launched the Unbundle Policing: Reimagine Public Safety Challenge – an Incubator and Accelerator for social ventures focused on decreasing the number of unnecessary law enforcement encounters and the risk of adverse outcomes for community members. This Challenge aimed to accelerate a range of more appropriate alternatives for individuals experiencing or at risk of a crisis otherwise likely to result in an unwarranted police encounter, emergency room visit, and/or incarceration.

Dr. Philip Hong led CROSS in joining the MIT SOLVE incubator program to provide innovative solutions to help decrease police-community violence triggers and incidents using the PSS and TIP framework. 

Dr. Philip Hong Partners with WTTW on FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty Program (2021)

Social Work Dr. Philip Hong developed a Discussion Guide to accompany the WTTW Program FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty, presented virtually on January 18, 2021 and now available as a web resource.  A media-rich resource, FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty includes powerful stories told by five Chicagoans experiencing intergenerational poverty who will help viewers better understand the challenges that can make it difficult to escape the cycle of poverty. In addition, talks by five experts that provide context around the topic of poverty in Chicago; articles and podcasts add additional background and content.

Dr. Hong’s Discussion Guide provides questions and resources to help viewers and community facilitators connect with the series through a personalized reflective learning process. Designed to support community members and organizations, educators, faith community leaders, and policymakers, it provides tools to unpack the complexities of poverty and spark dialogue that can be used for everything from creating healing conversations to strategic community action plans. The FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty collection and Discussion Guide are useful resources for social workers to use in a variety of practice settings.

FIRSTHAND: Living in Poverty is available at and is part of the award-winning FIRSTHAND multiplatform, multi-year initiative focusing on the firsthand perspectives of people facing critical issues in Chicago.

Hong Co-Edits 'Pathways to Careers in Health Care' Book, Leading Federal Grantee Collaboration (2019)

HPOG unites two important innovations in workforce development programming for serving low-income populations in recent decades, career pathways and sector strategies, by actively fostering the use of the former in the context of one major sector—health care. Health care is one of the only sectors that continued to exhibit growth year after year in periods of general economic expansion as well as decline. Health care employment even continued to expand in most states and communities across the United States through the Great Recession in 2008–2009. In addition to offering insights into these strategies and their evolution, the authors in this book present the findings, lessons, and recommendations that emanated from HPOG research and evaluations for consideration by policymakers, program operators, and other researchers. 

CROSS Selected in Top 100 Nominees for Chicago Innovation (2018)

In September of 2018, Dr. Philip Hong participated in the Chicago Innovation Awards Dinner, out of 519 nominees the judges selected The Center for Research on Self-Sufficiency (CROSS), to be in the top 100 nominees. This event celebrated all nominees and provided a great opportunity to connect with other innovators and resource providers. “The Chicago Innovation Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit that provides educational events and programs to people interested in learning about innovation and entrepreneurship.”

CROSS Secures 2nd Funding from Fry Foundation (2018)

The Center for Research on Self-Sufficiency (CROSS) secured $120,000 in funding from the Lloyd A Fry Foundation for the Transforming Impossible into Possible (TIP)® Institute for agency engagement using the TIP program and psychological self-sufficiency or PSS research. This work will help develop a community network of agencies to lead bottom-up systematic change.

Interview with Dr. Philip Hong: What Does CROSS Represent for the Community? (2017)

“The term ‘self-sufficiency’ is a dominant social policy goal targeting public assistance, adult education, workforce development, foster youth emancipation, refugee resettlement, and public housing. And we are committed to making this a process-based empowering concept that can be owned by individuals and families trying to overcome their barriers with hope to achieve their goals.” LEARN MORE

'Hope is Possible' When Transforming the Barriers (2016)

Using those research results, Dr. Philip Hong developed a questionnaire that looks at the psychological barriers people face when they’ve been out of work for an extended time. By answering questions such as “Do I have purpose in life?” and “Am I capable of working in a good job?” people can eventually switch from feeling helpless to being hopeful, Hong discovered. “We quickly realized that employment barriers are linked with hope,” he said. “We wanted to break down those barriers and show these individuals that success is possible–that hope is possible.” His idea was recognized by the inaugural Chicago Social Innovation Challenge sponsored by the University of Chicago. Then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel congratulates Dr. Hong on his achievement. LEARN MORE

Fry Foundation Supports TIP Implementation at GWTP (2016)

CROSS Center was awarded a grant from Lloyd A. Fry Foundation to partner with GWTP to expand and strengthen TIP’s ongoing evidence­ informed employment model, and seeks to implement and test TIP at GWTP by gradually exposing all participants and GWTP’s Employer Advisory Committees to TIP training. This TIP at GWTP project will provide a comprehensive set of data about barriers to employment, employment hope, motivation and other non­cognitive skills that are needed to stay in the mainstream workforce. The intent of TIP’s expansion is to increase the number of participants that complete GWTP occupational programs, increase the number of participants placed in jobs, and increase their employment retention rate by way of strengthening psychological self-sufficiency. 

CROSS Receives HPOG University Research Partnership Grant from ACF / OPRE (2016)

The HPOG University Partnership Research Grants are intended to support research and evaluation that will inform and improve HPOG Program performance and complement ACF’s multi-pronged evaluation of the HPOG Program. CROSS Center was funded to work closely and coordinate with ACF’s other evaluation efforts and the Federal Project Officer (FPO) in order to promote cross-project learning and avoid duplicative efforts. Study is being conducted to benefit the employment and self-sufficiency research field more broadly by seeking to advance knowledge of health care workforce development and education and training programs, including career pathways programs. Findings will inform relevant policy decisions and solutions, particularly for underserved populations.