The RETAIN Demonstration: Comparing RETAIN Enrollees with Other Populations

The RETAIN Demonstration: Comparing RETAIN Enrollees with Other Populations

Published: Nov 30, 2023
Publisher: Mathematica
Associated Project

Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) Evaluation

Time frame: 2018–2023

Prepared for:

Social Security Administration

Key Findings
  • Compared with all state workers, RETAIN enrollees had lower employment and earnings and were older and less educated on average. They were also more likely to be employed in service occupations and less likely to be employed in management or professional occupations.
  • The racial and ethnic composition of RETAIN enrollees differed from that of state workers. Several RETAIN programs tried to recruit historically underserved populations, which could have contributed to the greater racial and ethnic diversity of enrollees compared with all workers in the state.
  • Compared with SSDI/SSI applicants, RETAIN enrollees had higher employment rates and average earnings and were younger and more educated on average.
  • Differences in characteristics between RETAIN enrollees and the comparison populations varied across states. This finding might reflect differences in the five RETAIN programs’ eligibility criteria, recruiting strategies, and initial recruitment catchment areas.
  • Differences between RETAIN enrollees and SSDI/SSI applicants inform the generalizability of findings from the RETAIN demonstration, while those between RETAIN enrollees and all state workers suggest lessons for programs’ outreach and recruitment practices.

The Retaining Employment and Talent After Injury/Illness Network (RETAIN) demonstration, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), aims to help workers with recently acquired injuries and disabilities remain in the labor force. Following a pilot phase, DOL awarded cooperative agreements to state agencies in Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, and Vermont to fully implement RETAIN services. These five RETAIN programs aim to identify and recruit a subset of workers who could be at risk of exiting the labor force and applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In this brief, we compare the characteristics of people who enrolled in RETAIN in 2022 with all workers and with applicants for SSDI and SSI, in their respective states. Characteristics of RETAIN enrollees differed substantially from those of the two comparison populations. On average, RETAIN enrollees had lower recent earnings than workers in their state but higher earnings than applicants for disability benefits. We also found significant differences between RETAIN enrollees and the comparison populations in sociodemographic characteristics, such as gender, age, race and ethnicity, and education. The findings illustrate how RETAIN enrollees differ from the states’ worker populations and the extent to which the RETAIN demonstration projects are reaching people who might be at greatest risk of applying for disability benefits.

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