The long-term effects of transitional employment services (Decker & Thorton 1995)
Absence of conflict of interest: This study was conducted by staff from Mathematica Policy Research, which administers CLEAR. Therefore, the review of this study was conducted by an independent consultant trained in applying the CLEAR causal evidence guidelines.
Decker, P., & Thornton, C. (1995). The long-term effects of transitional employment services. Social Security Bulletin, 58(4), 71–81.
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- The study’s objective was to determine the long-term effects of an intervention designed to improve employment and earnings outcomes among Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients with intellectual disabilities. The study was a component of the Transitional Employment Training Demonstration (TETD).
- The authors examined data from the Supplemental Security Record (SSR) maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and demographic information from intake data collection forms. They estimated impacts on employment, earnings, total income, amount of SSI benefits received, and probability of receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits for the six years following enrollment.
- The study found statistically significant, positive impacts on employment, earnings, and total income over the follow-up period. There were also modest declines in the amount of SSI benefits received.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is high because it is a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means that we are confident that the estimated effects in this study are attributable to the intervention, and not to other factors.
Features of Transitional Employment Training Demonstration
The TETD operated from 1985 to 1987 and was designed to help SSI recipients with intellectual disabilities enter or reenter the workforce and hold competitive jobs. The service providers in each of the 13 U.S. metropolitan communities served by the eight competitively procured service providers offered five transitional employment services: (1) outreach to recruit study participants; (2) benefit protection waivers that ensured participants maintained SSI eligibility while receiving training; (3) placement in potentially permanent, competitive jobs; (4) on-the-job employability training and employment case management; and (5) post-employment placement case management and reemployment placements. Demonstration services lasted for up to 12 months.
Eligibility for TETD was limited to SSI recipients ages 18 to 40 with a diagnosis of intellectual disability who lived in a community in the study. Of the 745 volunteer SSI recipients who were in the study, 375 were randomally assigned into the TETD treatment and 370 into the control group, which could not receive the employment services. The participants in TETD were a particularly disadvantaged subset of all SSI recipients, with relatively low pre-enrollment earnings ($450 per year), pre-enrollment employment in a regular competitive job (10 percent), and intelligence quotient (IQ) (median 57).
Features of the Study
Data for the study were collected from administrative records, including the SSR, which records benefit payments, earnings, and SSI recipient income information, and intake data collection forms that gathered participants’ information on demographics, living arrangements, previous work history, types of disabilities, and the intake worker’s assement of a participant’s probability of obtaining and maintaining employent.
The authors estimated average impacts on employment, earnings, total income, amount of SSI benefits received, and probability of receiving SSDI benefits for the six years following enrollment by comparing these outcomes for treatment and control group members.
The program served 13 communities; eight different providers implemented it:
- AHEDD Incorporated (Harrisburg, Lancaster, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and York, Pennsylvania; Dover, Delaware)
- The Association for Retarded Citizens, Monmouth Unit (Monmouth, New Jersey)
- The CENTER (Chicago, Illinois)
- The Children’s Hospital (Boston, Massachusetts)
- Exceptional Children’s Foundation (Los Angeles, California)
- Goodwill Industries, Milwaukee (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
- University of Washington and Portland Community College (Portland, Oregon)
- University of Wisconsin Stout (four counties in northern Wisconsin)
- The study found positive, statistically significant impacts in favor of the treatment group on employment-related outcomes for the duration of the six-year follow-up period. Treatment group members were 9 to 15 percentage points more likely to be employed than control group members, depending on the year examined. Earnings impacts ranged from $574 to $869 per year and were $4,282 for the total follow-up period, whereas impacts on total income ranged from $420 to $719 per year and were $3,232 for the total follow-up period.
- Reductions in SSI receipt amounts received were $870 over the entire follow-up period, and this impact was statistically significant.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors cautioned that because the TETD was limited to young volunteer participants who had intellectual disabilities, generalizing the study findings to the broader SSI recipient population is not advisable. In addition, although the pecuniary and nonpecuniary impacts of employment likely enhanced study participants’ quality of life, few study participants earned enough to end their receipt of SSI benefits.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is high because it is a well-conducted randomized control trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects in this study are attributable to the intervention, and not to other factors.