The Development of the Project NetWorks Administrative Records Database for Policy Evaluation

Article excerpt

This article describes the development of SSNs administrative records database for the Project NetWork return-to-work experiment targeting persons with disabilities. The article is part of a series of papers on the evaluation of the Project NetWork demonstration. In addition to 8,248 Project NetWork participants randomly assigned to receive case management services and a control group, the simulation identified 138,613 eligible nonparticipants in the demonstration areas. The output data files contain detailed monthly information on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits, annual earnings, and a set of demographic and diagnostic variables. The data allow for the measurement of net outcomes and the analysis of factors affecting participation. The results suggest that it is feasible to simulate complex eligibility rules using administrative records, and create a clean and edited data file for a comprehensive and credible evaluation. The study shows that it is feasible to use administrative records data for selecting control or comparison groups in future demonstration evaluations.

I. Introduction

The purpose of this article is to describe the development of the Project NetWork administrative records database for policy evaluation. Project NetWork has been the first large-scale return-to-work field experiment targeting both the Title 11 Disability Insurance (DI) and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disabled beneficiary population with severe disabilities. The demonstration was initiated in 1991, to test the feasibility and effects of providing intensive outreach and case management services, and also included work incentive waivers. The demonstration was conducted at eight sites between 1992 and 1994. A comprehensive evaluation component was included in the demonstration design, including the random assignment of 8,248 participants who volunteered for the demonstration to a "Treatment" group receiving case management services, and a "Control" group of persons who did not receive case management services.

The evaluation design called for the collection of data on nonparticipating eligibles at the demonstration sites as well, in order to provide information on the factors affecting the selection of participants among project eligibles-such data being central to the understanding of the role of self-selection and targeting in producing return-to-work outcomes. It also called for the efficient combination of relying on routinely collected SSA administrative records, data from Project NetWork demonstration MIS systems (the Case Management Control System or CMCS1), and supplementary survey data collection. It envisioned the followup of Project NetWork participants and nonparticipant eligibles over a period of several years to facilitate the accurate measurement of net outcomes. In addition, case studies were conducted at the eight demonstration sites to provide information on the operational aspects of project implementation. All of these various sources of information were deemed essential for a comprehensive evaluation of the net outcomes (also referred to as "net impacts") of the demonstration and for the understanding of the institutional processes and selection decisions eventually responsible for the production of these outcomes.

The development of a comprehensive database from SSA administrative records was a key component of this overall evaluation strategy for several reasons: SSA administrative records form an excellent source of precise information on two key outcomes of interest in any analysis of return to work among SSA disability beneficiaries: the receipt of DI and SSI benefits. These data are available on a monthly basis, providing complete benefit history during the pre-demonstration period, as well as for the post-demonstration period. If necessary, the post-demonstration period can be extended to the indefinite future at relatively low cost, because SSA continues to maintain benefit receipt information regardless of participation in specific demonstration initiatives. …