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.
Fraker, T., Baird, P., Black, A., Mamun, A., Manno, M., Martinez, J., Rangarajan, A., & Reed, D. (2011). The Social Security Administration’s Youth Transition Demonstration projects: Interim report on Colorado Youth WINS. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research.
- This study’s objective was to measure 12-month impacts of the Colorado Youth Work Incentive Network of Supports (WINS) project, sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA), one of six project sites of the larger Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) projects that used a randomized evaluation. Youth WINS provided services to help youth with disabilities improve their education and employment outcomes and become more economically self-sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits.
- Data were collected from a baseline survey and 12-month follow-up survey, the Ticket Research File (TRF), and the Master Earnings File (MEF). The authors estimated program impacts on measures of paid employment, educational attainment, and Social Security disability benefit receipt.
- The study found that Youth WINS did not achieve any statistically significant impacts on the outcomes examined during the 12-month follow-up period.
- The quality of causal evidence in this study is high because it was a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Colorado Youth WINS and not to other factors.
The Youth Transition Demonstration Projects, Colorado Youth WINS Program
Features of the Intervention
Youth WINS was implemented from August 2006 to January 2010 by the Colorado WIN Partners at the University of Colorado Denver. It was one of six project sites evaluated using a randomized design as part of the larger SSA-sponsored YTD, which intended to help youth with disabilities become more self-sufficient and improve their employment outcomes. Independence teams—composed of a benefits planner, career counselor, and disability program navigator—ensured that youth and their families understood available benefits and services, helped them develop employment goals, and referred them to employment services at partner organizations.
The program targeted current or recent SSA disability recipients ages 14 to 25. The participants were, on average, 20 years old and the primary disability for 60 percent was a mental illness or a cognitive or developmental disability. Most (93 percent) of the treatment group members received case management services, but only about half received employment services. All YTD participants were also eligible for waivers that (1) extended the student earned income exclusion to all YTD participants regardless of age, (2) increased the earned income exclusion to a $1 reduction in Supplemental Security Income benefit for every $4 earned above a base amount, and (3) delayed benefit cessation for YTD participants who were determined ineligible for benefits after a benefit review or age-18 SSI medical redetermination.
Features of the Study
The study was a randomized controlled trial in which 468 youth were randomly assigned to the treatment group and 387 to the control group. Data were collected from a baseline survey, a 12-month follow-up survey, and SSA’s TRF and MEF. The TRF supplied data on benefit receipt status, benefit amounts paid, and disabling condition, whereas the MEF provided baseline earnings information. Regression-adjusted impacts were estimated for several outcomes, such as paid employment, earnings, educational attainment, monthly Social Security disability benefit receipt, and total income from earnings and benefits.
- Boulder County, Colorado
- Larimer County, Colorado
- Pueblo County, Colorado
- El Paso County, Colorado
- Youth WINS achieved no statistically significant impacts on paid employment, earnings, educational attainment, Social Security disability benefit receipt, or total income over the 12-month follow-up period.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors attributed the lack of impacts to inadequate implementation of the YTD program model’s job development and job placement components, as well as the inability of Youth WINS’ partners to provide substantial employment services to all of the youth referred by the independence teams. In addition, only 86 percent of youth assigned to the treatment group actually enrolled in Youth WINS.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence in this study is high because it was a well-conducted randomized controlled trial. This means we are confident that the estimated effects are attributable to Colorado Youth WINS and not to other factors.