Overview of Vocational Rehabilitation Data about People with Visual Impairments: Demographics, Services, and Long-Run Labor Market Trends





This study describes the characteristics of, services received by, and labor market outcomes of applicants with visual impairments to three state vocational rehabilitation programs. Our objective is to both document cross-state variation in vocational rehabilitation clientele and services and provide new insights on the longitudinal labor market outcomes of clients with visual impairments (i.e., blindness or low vision). This analysis is a first step in assessing the returns to vocational rehabilitation services for this population.


We first created a unique longitudinal data set by matching administrative records on applicants who are visually impaired in state fiscal year 2007 from three vocational rehabilitation agencies to 8 years of employment data from state Unemployment Insurance programs. Using these data, we examined cross-state variation in the descriptive statistics for important client explanatory variables and vocational rehabilitation service categories. We then compared the long-term labor market outcomes of clients receiving services (treated) to untreated individuals.


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 was consistent with vocational rehabilitation services having no employment effect but a positive earnings effect.


Labor market results indicate vocational rehabilitation services provided persistent earnings benefits. Yet the substantial cross-state heterogeneity suggests 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 article gives practitioners a sense of a unique new data set on vocational rehabilitation and labor market variables for applicants with visual impairments. We highlight the importance of cross-state variation and linking vocational rehabilitation data to long-term employment measures. The question of how best to inform the efficacy of different vocational rehabilitation strategies for clients with visual impairments is left for future researchers to consider.

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