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.
Wittenburg, D., Fraker, T., Stapleton, D., Thornton, C., Gregory, J., & Mamun, A. (2007). Initial impacts of the Ticket to Work program on Social Security disability beneficiary service enrollment, earnings, and benefits. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 27, 129–140.
- The study’s objective was to determine the effectiveness of Ticket to Work (TTW), a program designed to enhance the employment services available to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients.
- The authors analyzed the outcomes of a nationwide sample of 4.7 million SSI and SSDI recipients ages 18 to 57 who would have been eligible for TTW in 2001. The authors used administrative records through 2004 from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
- The study found that enrollment in employment services increased 0.1 to 0.4 percent in states where TTW was in effect. However, the authors found no evidence of increased earnings as a result of TTW.
- The quality of the causal evidence presented in this study is moderate, the highest possible rating for nonexperimental designs. This means we have some confidence that the observed effects represent the impact of TTW, although other factors might also have contributed.
Ticket to Work
Features of the Intervention
The TTW program aimed to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities by providing SSI and SSDI recipients with an enhanced menu of employment services. Recipients older than 18 received a ticket by mail entitling them to free employment services through local employment networks (ENs) or state vocational rehabilitation agencies (SVRAs), organizations that offer job search assistance, career counseling, and other employment services. Using the ticket was voluntary. To encourage service receipt and, ultimately, gainful employment, SSA offered ENs and SVRAs reimbursement incentives tied to the progress their ticket holders made toward employment. TTW went into effect in different states at different times. Tickets were mailed in Phase I states in 2002, in Phase II states in 2003, and in Phase III states in 2004.
Features of the Study
The authors used the staggered implementation of the mailing of tickets in Phases I through III to create comparison groups. In each year, the authors treated the eligible recipients living in states where the program was in effect as the treatment group and eligible recipients in states where the program had not yet been implemented as the comparison group. For example, in 2002, when tickets had been mailed only in Phase I states, eligible recipients in Phase I states comprised the treatment group and eligible recipients in Phase II and Phase III states were the comparison group.
The study analyzed administrative records from SSA and RSA through 2004. Outcomes of interest included service enrollment, earnings, and benefit amount. The authors controlled for possible differences among the treatment and comparison groups by stratifying the sample by age range (18 to 39, 40 to 49, and 50 to 57) and disability type (SSI only, SSDI only, dually eligible) and including individual and regional fixed effects in their models.
- The study found that employment service enrollment for recipients increased from 0.1 to 0.4 percent in Phase I states after program implementation.
- However, the authors found no evidence of differences in earnings between treatment and comparison groups over the study period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
TTW was rolled out beginning in 2002 and this article examined impacts through 2004. It is possible that this follow-up period was too short to expect to see impacts on earnings, particularly given the small increase in service receipt after program implementation. In addition, the TTW implementation coincided with a change in SVRA record-keeping practices that could have inflated the service receipt data.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is moderate because it was a well-implemented nonexperimental study. This means we have some confidence that the observed effects represent the impact of the TTW program. The authors employed a rigorous econometric framework that controlled for many important variables; however, other factors might also have contributed.