Clapp, C. M., Pepper, J. V., Stern, S. N., & Yu, D. (January 2020). Interactions of Public Paratransit and Vocational Rehabilitation. (Link to ungated working paper).

Abstract: Federal and state governments spend over $3 billion annually on public-sector Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs, yet almost a third of people with disabilities report having inadequate access to the transportation necessary to commute to a job, potentially negating the positive effects of these interventions. We examine this previously understudied connection by assessing the impact access to public paratransit has on measures of VR program effectiveness. To do so, we use the data and estimates from three previously estimated structural models of VR service receipt and labor market outcomes that contain limited information about mobility. We spatially link the generalized residuals from these models to different measures of the availability and efficiency of local paratransit systems to determine whether paratransit explains any of the residual variation in the short- or long-run labor market outcomes of individuals receiving VR services. Results show that access to paratransit is an important determinant of the efficacy of VR services, but that effects are heterogeneous across disability groups. We discuss the policy implications of our findings for VR programs.

Ipsen, C. & Steven Stern, S. N. (2020). The Effect of Ruralness on Vocational Rehabilitation Applications. Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 53(1), 89-104.       (Additional link to ungated working paper).

Abstract: Most of the literature on evaluating vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs has taken application to the VR program as given despite the obvious selection issues associated with the decision to apply. In this paper, we focus on the decision to apply for VR services and, in particular, on the effect of ruralness on that decision. We use ordinary least squares with and without state-specific fixed effects along with maximum likelihood estimation (MLE) to estimate models of the application decision. We find that people with disabilities from rural counties are less likely to apply for VR services than people with disabilities in more urban counties. We also find a wide distribution in state-specific fixed effect MLE estimates and show that only a small part of the variation across states is due to variation in Order-of-Selectio rules. We conclude that states should sponsor more research to better understand variation in VR application rates across states and across counties. We also suggest how such research could be used to raise low application rates.

Clapp, C. M., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2020). Overview of vocational rehabilitation data about people with visual impairments: Demographics, services and long-run labor market trends. Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, 114(1), 43-56. (Link to ungated pre-publication draft).

Abstract: This study describes the characteristics of, services received by, and labor market outcomes of applicants with visual impairments to three state vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. Our objective is to both document cross-state variation in VR clientele and services as well as provide new insights on the longitudinal labor market outcomes of VR clients with visual impairments. This is a first step in assessing the returns to VR services for this population.

Schmidt, R. M., Hollenbeck, K., & Rowe, K. L. (Eds.). (2019). Special Issue: Return on Investment for State Vocational Rehabilitation Programs. Journal of Rehabilitation Administration, 40(1), 80 pages. Table of contents with abstracts and introduction to special issue. (Links to ungated pre-publication versions are provided where available. Please feel free to email individual authors for PDFs of other articles.)

Dean, D. H., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2019). The effects of youth transition programs on labor market outcomes of youth with disabilities. Economics of Education Review, 68, 68-88.       (Additional link to ungated pre-publication draft).

Abstract: The process of “transitioning” to adulthood for youth with disabilities has long been recognized to be an important but understudied public policy concern. This paper evaluates the labor market effects of Virginia’s school-to-work vocational evaluation program, PERT. Using a unique panel data set containing more than a decade of labor market and service information, we provide the first-ever assessment of the long-term employment impacts of a transitioning program for youth with disabilities. Overall, the estimated effects are substantial: PERT has an estimated median quarterly rate of return of nearly 30%.

Dean, D. H., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2018). The effects of vocational rehabilitation for people with physical impairments. Journal of Human Capital, 12(1), 1-37.       (Additional link to ungated pre-publication draft).

Abstract: We evaluate the impact of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services on employment outcomes of adults with physical disabilities. Using detailed panel data from the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitation Services in state fiscal year 2000, we estimate a structural model of participation that accounts for the potentially sudden onset of physical impairments and the endogenous selection of VR services. The results imply that VR services have large, positive long-run labor market effects that substantially exceed the cost of providing services.

Dean, D. H., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2017). The effects of vocational rehabilitation for people with mental illness. Journal of Human Resources, 52(3), 826-858.       (Additional link to ungated draft).

Abstract: We construct a structural model of participation in vocational rehabilitation for people with mental illness. There are multiple services to choose among, and each has different effects on employment, earnings, and receipt of DI/SSI. This is the first paper to jointly estimate VR service receipt, employment outcomes, and DI/SSI receipt. We estimate large effects for most of the services implying large rates of return to vocational rehabilitation.

Honeycutt, T., Thompkins, A., Bardos, M., & Stern, S. N. (2017). Youth with Disabilities at the Crossroads: The Intersection of Vocational Rehabilitation and Disability Benefits for Youth with Disabilities. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 60(3).       (Additional link to ungated pre-publication working paper). (2018 Editor’s Choice Award of the National Rehabilitation Association.)

Abstract: State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies are well positioned to assist youth aged 16 to 24 years with disabilities who are transitioning from school to work. Using Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)-911 records matched to Social Security Administration (SSA) administrative records, this article adds to the knowledge about state VR agency provision of services to youth with disabilities and differences in outcomes based on SSA benefit receipt status. Although agencies’ statistics varied widely, almost one in six SSA beneficiaries who sought VR services had at least 1 month of benefit suspension due to work within 48 months of their VR applications, and about one in 10 VR applicants without SSA benefits at the time of their VR application received SSA benefits within 48 months. SSA beneficiaries received services from VR agencies at the same level as non-SSA beneficiaries, but the levels at which they were employed when they closed from services were lower. The results have two main policy implications. First, the level of resources to which agencies have access may be important in influencing the outcomes we measured. Second, agency differences in the proportion of SSA beneficiaries who eventually had benefit suspension due to work point to the potential for additional gains by agencies in this area.

Dean, D. H., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2015). The effects of vocational rehabilitation for people with cognitive impairments. International Economic Review, 56(2), 399-426.       (Additional link to ungated draft).

Link to ungated online appendices for this article.

Abstract: This article utilizes administrative data to examine both short- and long-term employment impacts for people with cognitive impairments who applied for vocational rehabilitation services in Virginia in 2000. These data provide long- term quarterly information on services and employment outcomes. We model behavior, allow for multiple service choices, use long-run labor market data, and use valid instruments. Results imply that services generally have positive long-run labor market outcome effects that appear to substantially exceed the cost of providing services.

Dean, D. H., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. N. (2014). State vocational rehabilitation programs and federal disability insurance: an analysis of Virginia’s vocational rehabilitation program. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 114(1), 43-56.

Abstract: We examine the association between the receipt of vocational rehabilitation (VR) services and Federal Disability Insurance using a unique panel data source on persons who applied for assistance from Virginia’s VR program in 2000. Three central findings emerge: first, VR services are associated with lower rates of participation in disability insurance programs-a nearly 2 point drop in SSDI receipt and 1 point drop in SSI receipt. Second, VR service receipt is associated with lower take-up rates of SSDI/SSI. Finally, among VR applicants on SSDI/SSI, those who receive substantive VR services are more likely to be employed.

Ashley, J. M., Pepper, J. V., Rowe, K. L., Schmidt, R. M., Stern, S.N (2014). Dedication to David Dean. IZA Journal of Labor Policy, 3(1), 1 – 24.

Abstract: This special volume is dedicated to David H. Dean who passed away on August 11th, 2013. This dedication describes David’s impact on the academic research on disability and, most notably, the vital interaction between research and policy. It discusses his influence in shaping perspectives on evaluating the effectiveness of programs to increase employment. Finally, it describes David as a person and why he was influential as a researcher and college professor.

Honeycutt, T., Thompkins, A., Bardos, M., & Stern, S. (2014). State Differences in the Vocational Rehabilitation Experiences of Transition-Age Youth with Disabilities, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, 42, 17 – 30.

Abstract: This working paper presents new state-level statistics on the outcomes for a cohort of transition-age youth with disabilities who applied for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services from 2004 through 2006. Across states, the percentage of transition-age youth applying for VR services ranged from 4 to 14 percent, the percentage of applicants receiving VR services ranged from 31 to 82 percent, and the percentage of youth who closed with an employment outcome after receiving VR services ranged from 40 to 70 percent.

Dean, D., Pepper, J. V., Schmidt, R. M., & Stern, S. (2009). A Preliminary Analysis of VA-DRS 1988 Applicant Cohort with Cognitive Impairments. Unpublished manuscript.

Abstract: This report addresses Task #7 of MOU #09-226 between the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services (DRS) and The University of Virginia. Focusing on persons with cognitive impairments from the 1988 DRS applicant cohort, we examine quarterly panel data on Vocational Rehabilitative (VR) services, employment and wages. We first provide a descriptive summary of these data, and then evaluate the long-run impact of VR services on employment, earnings and services provisions. These preliminary findings indicate that VR services have a substantial positive impact on future employment probabilities but very little on impact wages. Likewise, we find evidence that VR services provided in 1988 appear to have little impact on the recidivism probability. Throughout, we provide directions for future work.