Lessons from Pilot Tests of Recruitment for the Promoting Opportunity Demonstration

Lessons from Pilot Tests of Recruitment for the Promoting Opportunity Demonstration

Published: Jan 25, 2019
Publisher: Mathematica
Associated Project

Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD) Evaluation

Time frame: 2017–2022

Prepared for:

Social Security Administration


Heinrich Hock

Kenneth Fortson


  • The Social Security Administration (SSA) is carrying out the Promoting Opportunity Demonstration (POD) to evaluate a benefit offset rule for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries. This offset rule reduces benefits by $1 for every $2 earned above the Trial Work Period (TWP) level, defined as $850 in 2018. It replaces current rules, which are more complex and may result in a sharper loss of all benefits (a “cash cliff”) for beneficiaries who engage in substantial work activity for a sustained amount of time.
  • SSDI beneficiaries in eight states who met certain eligibility requirements could volunteer for POD by responding to a mailing and giving their informed consent to enroll in the demonstration. SSA and the evaluation team needed to develop POD recruitment materials that conveyed the benefits and risks of the new rules while still attracting enough beneficiaries to the study.
  • With SSA’s guidance, the evaluation team used a two-month recruitment pilot to assess interest in POD and refine the outreach approach to meet recruitment targets for the demonstration.


  • This brief summarizes findings from a rapid-cycle experiment conducted during the recruitment pilot, which included mailings to 31,296 beneficiaries. The experiment tested the effectiveness of follow-up postcards and telephone calls, an illustrative insert describing the implications of the new POD rules, and mail-back postcards to signal interest in the demonstration.
  • This brief also describes other ways that the evaluation team refined POD recruitment materials based on how beneficiaries responded to outreach.


  • The evaluation team found that follow-up postcards and phone calls led to similar increases in the share of beneficiaries in the pilot who volunteered for POD, but postcards were more cost-effective. Illustrative benefit scenarios and mail-back postcards did not lead to any consistent changes in the volunteer rate.
  • SSA and the evaluation team adjusted the recruitment materials to clarify the nature of POD. The adjustment emphasized that beneficiaries only needed to respond if they wanted to enroll.
  • These findings underscore the importance of continued testing and monitoring of outreach strategies over the remainder of the POD recruitment effort.

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