Earnings and Disability Program Participation of Youth Transition Demonstration Participants after 24 Months

Author:Jeffrey Hemmeter
Position:Economist with the Office of Program Development, Office of Research, Demonstration, and Employment Support, Office of Retirement and Disability Policy, Social Security Administration

Using data from Social Security Administration (SSA) program records, this article evaluates employment and SSA disability program payment outcomes for youths participating in SSA’s Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) project. Participants were randomly assigned to treatment or control groups at each of six project sites. Treatment-group youths in the YTD received extra employment-related and... (see full summary)

Social Securit y Bulletin, Vol. 74, No. 1, 2014 1
Many youths with disabilities need assistance manag-
ing their transitions to adu lthood. Services available
through the education system ty pically end when
youths complete secondary school and are seldom
coordinated with adult-based ser vices (Osgood,
of transition to adulthood is compounded for youths
receiving means-tested Supplemental Secur ity Income
(SSI), who must cope with the added barriers of pov-
erty. Relatedly, many youths who receive SSI drop out
of school and encounter the criminal justice system
(Loprest and Wittenburg 2007), factors that reduce
the likelihood of employment in early adulthood
(Hemmeter, Kauff, and Wittenburg 2009). As a result,
former child SSI recipients tend to have low labor
force participation well into adulthood (Davies, Rupp,
and Wittenburg 2009) and remain on the SSI rolls for
substantial periods as adu lts (Rupp and Scott 1995).
To help address these issues, the Social Security
Administration (SSA) conducted the Youth Transition
Demonstration (YTD) project to identify inter ventions
that improve the educational and vocational outcomes
for youths aged 14–25 who receive or potentially
qualify for SSI payments or Social Security Disabilit y
1 YTD par ticipants received a
variety of employment, education, and other services.
To encourage work while they participated in the proj-
ect, youths were also entitled to waivers of certain SSI
and DI rules that would otherwise lim it the amount of
earnings they could keep while remaining eligible for
program payment s.
Participants were randomly assigned to tre atment
and control groups at six YTD project sites. Control
group members were subject to standard SSA program
Selected Abbreviations
BHBF Broadened Horiz ons, Brighter Futures
CDR Continuing Disabil ity Review
CPI -W Consumer Pr ice Index for Urban Wage
Earners and Cler ical Workers
CTP Career Transition Program
CUNY City University of New York
DI Disability Insurance
       
     
      
     
       
by Jeffrey Hemme ter*
  
 
  
  
  
 
 
  
2 http://www.socialsecurity.gov/policy/docs/ssb/
rules and received the employment services ordinarily
 -
bers were eligible for the program rule waivers and
enhanced employment supports. Par ticipant surveys
conducted 1 year after random assignment indicated
that treatment groups received higher levels of employ-
ment services than control groups at all sites, but
Although employment increased for participants at
 
emerged (Fraker and others 2011a, 2011b, 2011c,
2012a, 2012b, 2012c). Early results, however, may be
misleading. Project impacts may fade as participants
no longer receive services. Alternatively, impacts may
increase as youths mature a nd, over time, apply the
skills obtained in the project. As par t of the long-term
research strategy for the YTD, in th is article I expand
on those early results, using SSA program data to
describe the impact of the YTD on ea rnings and on SSI
and DI program participation in the 2 years following
random assignment. 2 Future reports w ill assess these
outcomes using both administ rative and survey dat a.
At three of the six sites, the YTD had a positive
impact on the proportion of youths with earn ings
2 years after random assignment. At two of those sites,
and at one site among the other three, the YTD also
 
random assignment. One of those sites guara nteed
 
guarantee was not in place in t he second year. Aver-
age earnings for the treat ment group at that site were
lower than those for the control group, consistent with
the successful motivation of marginal workers (who
would be expected to have lower average earnings)
to attempt employment. Additionally, the treatment
groups had higher SSI participation rates and payment
amounts than control group members i n four sites,
consistent with the intended effect of the SSI program
rule waive rs.
YTD Project Overview
SSA started the YTD projects in 20 03 to determine
whether providing extra employment-related and other
supports to youths receiving or potentially qual ifying
economic outcomes during their t ransition to adult-
hood, thereby eventually reducing dependence on
SSA programs. The YTD began with seven sites: one
each in California, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, and
Mississippi, and two in New York. The sites provided
supports and serv ices to help “youth with disabilities
 -
sition from school to work.” Each site worked under
a cooperative agreement with SSA to “collaborate
among federal, state, and local agencies to develop and
implement sustainable improvements in the delivery
of transition services and suppor ts” and to “test ways
to remove other barriers to employment and economic
Although services and suppor ts differed some-
what across sites, each site provided SSA program
 
planning, family counseling, oppor tunities for fam-
ily involvement in client services and activities, and
coordination of services (Mar tinez and others 2010).
Participants in each site were also eligible for waivers
of SSA program rules that would otherwise restr ict
their eligibility for payments if earni ngs exceeded
certain th resholds. Also, the termination of SSI or DI
a continuing disability review (CDR) or age-18 rede-
termination was deferre d while youths participated in
the YTD. Table 1 describes the standard SSA disabil-
ity program work incentives and the associated YTD
waivers of certain program r ules.
contractor) reviewed the seven sites “to determine the
feasibility of conducting a national random assignment
evaluation of YTD and explore each project’s appropri-
ateness for and interest in such an evaluation” (Mar-
tinez and others 2010, 4). Based on that review, SSA
terminated t wo sites (Iowa and Maryland) “because
 
cooperative agreements” (SSA 2008). Two other sites
(California and Mississippi) continued as originally
 
however, they were unable to implement the revi-
sions recommended in MDRC’s report, and are not
discussed here.3 The other three projects— Colorado
Selected Abbreviations—Continued
MPR Mathem atica Policy Research
 substantial gain ful activity
SPI State Partne rship Initiative
SSA Social Securit y Admini stration
SSI Supplemental Securit y Income
WINS Work Incentive Network of Supports
YTD Youth Transition Demonst ration

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