Panel Paper: The Social Security Administration's Youth Transition Demonstration: One-Year Impacts In Three Sites

Friday, November 9, 2012 : 8:20 AM
Washington (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Arif Mamun1, Thomas Fraker2 and Deborah Reed2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., (2)Mathematica Policy Research

The Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) is a large-scale demonstration and evaluation sponsored by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to test promising approaches for helping young people with disabilities become more self-sufficient and less reliant on disability benefits. The YTD intervention, which was developed based on research evidence, provides employment services (emphasizing paid competitive employment), benefits counseling, links to services available in the community, and other assistance to youth with disabilities and their families. Additionally, the youth who received those services were eligible for SSA waivers of certain benefit program rules, which allowed them to retain more of their disability benefits and health insurance while they worked for pay. Using a rigorous random assignment methodology, the YTD evaluation team is assessing whether these services and incentives were effective in helping youth with disabilities achieve greater independence and economic self-sufficiency.

This paper will present the one-year impact findings for YTD evaluation sites in Florida, Maryland, and West Virginia. While it will take several more years before we fully observe the transitions that the participants in this study make to adult life, early data from the evaluation provide rich information on the differences that the demonstration projects made in key outcomes for youth. The study examines the impacts of YTD on outcomes in five domains: (1) employment-promoting services, (2) paid employment, (3) education, (4) youth income, and (5) attitudes and expectations.

The target population for YTD was youth ages 14 through 25 who either were receiving SSA disability benefits or at risk of receiving them in the future. The evaluation team identified youth satisfying YTD program eligibility criteria by using lists of Social Security beneficiaries. We conducted outreach to those youth and recruited them into the study. Youth who agreed to participate in the evaluation were assigned at random to a treatment or control group. Youth in the treatment group were eligible to receive YTD services in addition to the SSA waivers, while those in the control group could receive only those services that were available in their communities, independent of the YTD initiative. The evaluation enrolled approximately 880 youth in each of six project sites. The three sites that will be addressed in this paper are the ones where project operations were most recently completed, in March 2012. The data on outcomes come from a 12-month follow-up survey and SSA administrative records. The survey focused on outcomes such as service use, employment, earnings, education, and attitudes and expectations. SSA administrative records provided data on benefits and the use of SSA work incentives and waivers. We also collected baseline data pertaining to the period immediately prior to random assignment through a survey and SSA administrative records.