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Work Disability and New Directions for Research

Paper Session

Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 12:15 PM - 2:15 PM (EST)

Hosted By: Society of Government Economists
  • Chair: Manasi Deshpande, University of Chicago

RETAIN Phase 1 Developments

Christopher McLaren
,
U.S. Department of Labor

Abstract

The Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network is a program focused on an important dimension of disability employment: Stay-at-Work/Return-to-Work (SAW/RTW) strategies. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in partnership with the Employment and Training Administration and Social Security Administration, RETAIN is engaging eight state teams in a series of demonstration projects focused on helping workers stay at or return to the workforce following an illness or injury. The primary goals of RETAIN are to: (1) increase employment retention and labor force participation of individuals who acquire, and/or are at risk of developing disabilities that inhibit their ability to work; and (2) reduce long-term work absences among project participants, including the need for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Each RETAIN project is focusing on early intervention strategies and coordination between employers, healthcare and employment-services professionals, and individuals with an illness or injury that prevents them from working. RETAIN will span a total of six years and be funded in two phases. The Phase 1 period of performance is 2 years and includes planning and start-up activities, including the launch of a small pilot demonstration. In September, 2018, nearly $19 million in Phase 1 funding was awarded to the California Employment Development Department, Connecticut Department of Labor, Kansas Department of Commerce, Kentucky Department of Workforce Investment, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Vermont Department of Labor, and Washington Employment Security Department. At the end of the Phase 1, a subset of these awardees may be competitively awarded up to $19.75 million each to fully implement their projects in Phase 2. This presentation will discuss RETAIN Phase 1 developments, including implementation challenges and successes, program characteristics, and preliminary outcomes of workers that received RETAIN

Who Might Benefit from Stay-At-Work/Return-To-Work Programs?

Sarah Prenovitz
,
Abt Associates
Austin Nichols
,
Abt Associates

Abstract

The number of workers at risk of developing work disabilities has taken on new salience in 2020 with an unprecedented exit rate from work. Early intervention programs, such as Stay at Work/Return to Work programs or interventions studied in states participating in the Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN), serve workers who experience illnesses and injuries that threaten their ability to work. The goal of these is to keep workers attached to the labor force, even if they miss some work, and prevent a health issue from becoming a work disability. Despite increased focus on these programs, it is unknown how many workers would take them up if offered, or might benefit from them if they participated. This paper presents several estimates of the size of the target population by state, over time. Estimates are based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation, the Current Population Survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, and other data source. We find that, prior to 2020, there is a fairly stable percentage of the workforce that leaves work for health reasons, throughout the business cycle. Different definitions produce different estimates of the size of the target population in predictable patterns. We also analyze data from 2020 to describe how the target population and their needs have changed, and offer implications for RETAIN and other SAW/RTW programs now and in the future.

Who Is at Risk of Workforce Exit Due to Disability? State Differences in 2003–2016

Yonatan Ben-Shalom
,
Mathematica

Abstract

A better understanding of trends in workforce exit due to disability and how these trends vary across states and subgroups can help federal and state policymakers identify both individual- and state-level factors associated with increased risk of workforce exit due to disability. Using national survey data and Bayesian multilevel modeling techniques, we produce fairly precise yearly estimates of trends in the risk of workforce exit due to disability for states and demographic subgroups. We identify Current Population Survey respondents as being “newly at-risk” of exiting the workforce due to disability if they reported being employed in one month and out of the labor force because of a disability in the next month, and we refer to their share of the working-age population as the “at-risk rate.” We find that age, education, race, and gender are important factors for the at-risk rate, in decreasing order. Holding demographics constant across states and time reduces the cross-state variation in the at-risk rate but does little to reduce variability over time. State at-risk rates are typically higher than application rates for the Social Security Administration’s disability programs, but the relationship between these rates varies considerably by state. Our preliminary exploration of the reasons for cross-state variation in this relationship suggests that differences across states may be due to differences in their industrial composition, job opportunities, and safety net structure.

Predictors of Healthy Aging and Longevity

Katie Jajtner
,
University of Wisconsin

Abstract

We provide evidence on midlife correlates of healthy aging and longevity using longitudinal and restricted mortality data for the United States from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics. Logistic regressions analyze the association of key midlife experiences including marriage, poverty, and work limitations with healthy aging and longevity at ages 65 and older in a sample of approximately 2,000 individuals. Since some midlife experiences, in particular work limitations, may be episodic in nature, the longitudinal data afforded by the PSID can better capture shorter-term episodes with up to 20 years of data in midlife (defined between ages 40 and 59). Results suggest that in addition to sex, education, marital status and poverty history, work limitations due to health or disability in midlife are consistently and strongly correlated with less desirable aging outcomes. In particular, limitations that are chronic in nature appear most deleterious for an individual’s likelihood of experiencing healthy aging or longevity, although temporary conditions also associated with poorer aging outcomes. This study is unique in following and highlighting work limitations at midlife as a correlate of poor aging outcomes. Future research could investigate how participation at midlife in workplace or safety-net programs related to work limitations may moderate observed poorer aging outcomes.
Discussant(s)
Manasi Deshpande
,
University of Chicago
Sophie Mitra
,
Fordham University
Bruce D. Meyer
,
University of Chicago
Michel Grosz
,
Federal Trade Commission
JEL Classifications
  • J1 - Demographic Economics
  • J2 - Demand and Supply of Labor