In April 2005, approximately 776,000 youth with disabilities ages 14 to 25 were receiving federal Supplemental Security Benefits, and the expected lifetime stay on the disability rolls for those who began receiving SSI under age 18 was a total of 27 years. Programs that can help youth make a successful transition from school to work, and to economic self-sufficiency, hold great promise — for youth with disabilities and for the federal government, which stands to reap significant savings in the long-term costs of benefits.
Recognizing the importance of service intervention at this critical juncture in youths’ lives, the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) initiated the Youth Transition Demonstration (YTD) evaluation. SSA is providing the funding to develop and rigorously evaluate promising strategies to help youth with disabilities become as economically self-sufficient as possible as they transition from school to work. SSA has contracted with Mathematica Policy Research (MPR), Inc., to develop and evaluate the YTD projects. MPR has assembled a team for the evaluation that includes MDRC, disability program experts from TransCen, Inc., and academic specialists.
Hallmark features of the YTD evaluation include (1) strong, policy-relevant demonstration projects that serve relatively large numbers of youth with disabilities compared to other programs; and (2) a rigorous evaluation design based on random assignment. By waiving certain federal disability program rules and offering enhanced services to youth with disabilities, the YTD projects are expected to encourage young people to work or continue their education.