Panel Paper: Can Progressive Employment Improve Outcomes for Vocational Rehabilitation Customers? Evidence from Vermont

Saturday, November 10, 2018
8206 - Lobby Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

David Mann1, David Stapleton1, James Smith2, Alice Porter2 and Hugh Bradshaw2, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation

The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program is a federal-state partnership that provides services to people with disabilities who want to achieve their employment goals. About 80 percent of the funding is federal, but the program is administered by state VR agencies. Nationally in 2014, VR assisted 578,488 people, 183,432 of which exited the program employed (Rehabilitation Services Administration 2015).

Progressive employment (PE) is a new employment model currently being deployed at VR agencies in Vermont and three other states. Vermont introduced PE in May 2009 and still uses it for customers with significant barriers to employment. As described by its implementers in Vermont: “PE develops placements in competitive employment settings, with an eye to transitioning its customers into competitive jobs in these same settings. The objective is to allow both the candidate and the employer to try out the employment match before the two fully commit to it. For the individual candidates, this transition gradually increases their workplace engagement, which makes the process less threatening and more manageable. For the employers, PE reduces their perceived risks and concerns about hiring people with disabilities.” To achieve its objectives, PE employs a variety of tools, such as company tours, job shadowing, work experience with stipends, temp to hire, and on-the-job training (Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation 2012).

Our study is the first to estimate impacts for PE. Using administrative data from Vermont’s state VR agency, we examine the employment, earnings, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) receipt of customers who applied for services between 2009 and 2014. Employment and earnings are outcomes of interest because they relate directly to VR’s purpose—helping people with disabilities work. The SSI receipt is of interest because increases in earnings reduce benefits and sufficient increases in earnings and assets would make the VR customers ineligible for SSI. The study employs a quasi-experimental design, using the gradual increase in PE adoption during the evaluation period as a source of exogenous variation. The analysis controls for various characteristics at the time of VR application, such as education, disability type, and recent employment.

Full Paper: