Panel Paper: Improving the Outcomes of Youth with Medical Limitations: Evidence from the National Job Corps Study

Friday, November 9, 2018
Jefferson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Heinrich Hock, Dara Lee Luca, Tim Kautz and David Stapleton, Mathematica Policy Research

Improving work outcomes for youth with disabilities and reducing their reliance on disability benefits is an important policy goal, but existing interventions have a mixed track record of success. We consider the potential effectiveness of the Job Corps program as an option for achieving this goal. Job Corps is a U.S. Department of Labor program that was originally designed for economically disadvantaged and at-risk youth facing education or employment barriers due to their community living environment. It serves approximately 50,000 students each year, providing them with intensive, comprehensive, and integrated education work-focused supports including general education, vocational training, soft-skills development.

Our study provide new results about the program’s impacts based on data from the 1990s National Job Corps Study (NJCS), a large-scale randomized evaluation. Job Corps eligibility criteria during that time period tended to screen out youth with more-significant disabilities. Nonetheless, the NJCS offers a unique opportunity to rigorously assess program impacts for approximately 470 study enrollees who identified limitations from stemming from a medical condition.

We find that Job Corps produced large and significant impacts on important work and disability program outcomes for these youth with medical limitations:

  • Over a four-year period after random assignment, participation in Job Corps increased their earnings by an estimated 30 percent and decreased the amount of SSA disability benefits received by 50 percent.
  • These estimated per-participant impacts were at least twice the size of the corresponding impact estimates for youth not reporting medical limitations at enrollment.

Although more research on current program operations is needed, our results suggest that Job Corps may be a promising program model for helping at least some youth with disabilities transition to the adult labor market.