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Impacts of transitional employment for mentally retarded young adults: Results of the STETS demonstration (Kerachsky et al. 1985)

Citation

Kerachsky, S., Thornton, C., Bloomenthal, A., Maynard, R. & Stephens, S. (1985). Impacts of transitional employment for mentally retarded young adults: Results of the STETS demonstration. New York: Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the impact of the Structured Training and Employment Transitional Services (STETS) program on employment rates, earnings, and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receipt. The STETS program included a suite of work-readiness training, transitional jobs, and postplacement support services for young adults with intellectual disabilities.
  • The study was a randomized controlled trial that randomly assigned young adults to the treatment group, which could participate in the STETS program, or to the control group, which could not. The study drew on data from in-person interviews conducted 6, 15, and 22 months after the start of the program.
  • The study found that young adults in the treatment group were employed at significantly higher rates and, on average, earned more than the control group 15 and 22 months after the program began. The study also found that 15 months after random assignment, the young adults in the treatment group were significantly less likely than those in the control group to receive SSI or SSDI benefits.
  • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the STETS program, and not to other factors.

Intervention Examined

Structured Training and Employment Transitional Services

Features of the Intervention

The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation developed and administered the Structured Training and Employment Transitional Services program in 1981 and 1982. The STETS program provided training, transitional jobs, and continuing support services to young adults with intellectual disabilities. Participants received training and support services in a low-stress environment to develop basic work habits, skills, and attitudes. Participants were offered transitional jobs, which provided on-the-job training in local firms and agencies. The training and transitional jobs portion of the program lasted up to 15 months. Participants also received up to 6 months of support services after securing regular employment. On average, program participants enrolled in the STETS program for nearly 11 months, including 370 hours in training and 340 hours in transitional jobs. To be eligible for STETS, participants had to be ages 18 to 24 with limited work experience, an intelligence quotient (IQ) between 40 and 80, and no work-disabling secondary handicap.

Features of the Study

The authors used a randomized controlled trial to estimate the effects of the STETS program. Of eligible applicants to the program, 437 people were randomly assigned either to the treatment group, which could participate in the STETS program, or the control group, which could not participate in the STETS program but could access other programs in the community. The study drew on data from in-person interviews with study participants conducted 6, 15, and 22 months after the start of the program. The 15-month follow-up measured outcomes after the completion of the training and transitional jobs portion of the intervention, and the 22-month follow-up measured outcomes following the completion of the full program. When interviews with study participants left missing or inconsistent data on critical items, the authors completed interviews with proxy respondents such as a parent, relative, or caseworker. The authors estimated regression models comparing the outcomes of treatment and control group members, taking into account the study site, IQ, age, gender, race and ethnicity, living arrangement, financial management skills, receipt of transfers, secondary handicaps, cause of disability, benefactor, work experience in previous two years, and school status of each individual.

Study Sites

  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Los Angeles, California
  • New York, New York
  • St Paul, Minnesota
  • Tucson, Arizona

Findings

  • The study found that, compared with the control group, the treatment group was 9.4 percentage points more likely to be employed 15 months after the program began, and 11.9 percentage points more likely to be employed 22 months after the program began.
  • Compared with the control group, the treatment group earned significantly more: on average, the treatment group earned $10.59 more per week 15 months after the program began and $15.81 more per week more 22 months after the program began.
  • The study found no significant differences in earnings or employment between the treatment and control groups six months after the program began.
  • Compared with the control group, STETS participants were 7.6 percentage points less likely to receive SSI or SSDI 15 months after the program began. However, the study found no significant differences in SSI or SSDI receipt between the treatment and control groups 6 or 22 months after the start of the program. In addition, the study found no significant differences in the average monthly SSI or SSDI income received by the two groups 6, 15, or 22 months after STETS began.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The study authors estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to long-term earnings, employment, and benefit receipt. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The authors did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is high because it is based on a well-implemented randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the STETS program, and not to other factors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

December 2015

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