Overview of Vocational Rehabilitation Data about People with Visual Impairments: Demographics, Services and Long-Run Labor Market Trends
Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB), 2019
29 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2020
Date Written: December 1, 2019
Introduction: 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.
Methods: We first created a unique longitudinal dataset by matching administrative records on visually impaired applicants in state fiscal year (SFY) 2007 from three VR agencies to eight years of employment data from state Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs. Using these data, we examined cross-state variation in the descriptive statistics for important client explanatory variables and VR service categories. We then compared the long-term labor market outcomes of clients receiving services (treated) to untreated individuals.
Results: We documented two important findings. First, there were substantial differences in client characteristics, services provided, and costs across the three states. Second, the long run labor market analysis were consistent with VR services having no employment effect but a positive earnings effect.
Discussion: Labor market results indicate VR services provided persistent earnings benefits. Yet, the substantial cross-state heterogeneity suggest these labor market results might not be generalizable and should be interpreted with caution. We explain what was missing from this analysis and why the results should not be thought of as causal.
Implications for Practitioners: This paper gives practitioners a sense of a unique new dataset on VR and labor market variables for applicants with visual impairments. We highlight the importance of cross-state variation and linking VR data to long-term employment measures. The question of how best to inform the efficacy of different VR strategies for clients with visual impairments is left for future researchers to consider.
Keywords: Vocational rehabilitation (VR), blind, vision impairment
JEL Classification: H51, J24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation