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$4.375m Federal Grant Awarded to UNH to Improve National Disability Data

by User Not Found | Oct 14, 2013

The Institute on Disability (IOD) at the University of New Hampshire has been awarded a five-year, $4.375 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). This is another five-year renewal of the grant, titled the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Disability Statistics and Demographics (StatsRRTC), which works towards improving knowledge about and access to existing disability data, and generating the knowledge needed to improve future disability data collection and dissemination. The five-year award period began on October 1st.

The goal of the StatsRRTC project is to narrow and actively bridge the divide between the producers and end users of disability statistics, thereby supporting better data collection, more accurate information, better decision-making, more effective programs, and better lives for people with disabilities. Our key partners will include Mathematica, the Kessler Foundation, the Public Health Institute, InfoUse, the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), Center for Essential Management Services (CEMS) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR).

This grant proposes 12 research and 15 knowledge translation projects. The first five proposed research projects will test varying approaches to improve the collection of survey data on people with disabilities. The information that will be produced by these projects will be useful for policymakers, practitioners, and researchers—to inform their work involving both the broader population with disabilities and populations of people with specific disabilities. Additional research projects will conduct timely and high-quality data analyses that informs policy. These projects address highly relevant and current policy issues increasing the likelihood that the data will be used by policymakers to make informed, evidence-based decisions about programs and policies that impact people with disabilities, particularly those related to disparities in various outcomes for people with and without disabilities and trends for program participation.

  • R1–Evaluating the 6 Question Sequence (6QS) will assess the performance of the 6QS across multiple surveys and in comparison to other disability measures.
  • R2–Comprehensive Taxonomy of Employment Supports and Services will examine the current ability of VR agencies to document employment services with their data and identify new directions for data collection.
  • R3–Longitudinal Data Needs will track how disability self-reports change over time in a nationally representative longitudinal survey of transition-age youth.
  • R4–Conversational Versus Standardized Interviewing will compare the effects of two interviewing methods (standard instrument versus a more open-ended “conversation”) on both response rates and data quality.
  • R5–Proxy Behavior Coding will examine the exchanges between interviewers and respondents that result in proxy interviews.
  • R6–Federal Expenditures will update statistics on federal expenditures on working-age adults with disabilities, as well as, for the first time, provide a comprehensive estimate of recent federal expenditures on children with disabilities. 
  • R7–New Details will investigate whether the disparities that exist between those with disabilities and those without disabilities across a broad range of outcomes—such as employment, societal participation, and health—have been waxing or waning in recent years. 
  • R8–The Disability Belt will investigate the geographic dispersion of disability in the U.S., including the existence of a “disability belt” and the factors associated with its existence. 
  • R9–Tracking SSDI Participation will explore the reasons for growth in the number of SSDI beneficiaries, particularly among younger beneficiaries, which is a topic that has received extensive recent media coverage. 
  • R10–VR Services and Employment will examine the influence of employment services, employment outcomes, and program participation in VR and Social Security Administration (SSA) disability programs, which include SSDI and SSI. 
  • R11–Preparing for Transition will describe changes in the experiences, school supports, and post-high school expectations over the past decade for youth with disabilities who were enrolled in special education programs, and compare those changes to other youth. 
  • R12– Child SSI Enrollment will examine enrollment in the child SSI program, which has grown substantially in recent years, and has changed over time and across states.

In addition to this valuable research, the grant will expand upon its work on:

  • National Annual Reports on Disability;
  • The Annual Disability Statistics Compendium, which will now have a State/Local Disability Stats Generator, and a Disability Dashboard Mobile App;
  • Online training for State VR agency evaluation staff; and,
  • Graduate student mentorship from the UNH Economics MA and PhD programs.

“Statistics are powerful tools—in research, policymaking, program evaluation, and advocacy,” explains Andrew Houtenville, Research Director at the Institute on Disability and Principal Investigator for the StatsRRTC grant. “They are used to frame the issues, monitor current circumstances and progress, judge the effectiveness of policies and programs, make projections about the future, and predict the costs of potential policy changes. Having accurate and timely health statistics for people with intellectual disabilities is important for moving policies and practices forward.”

Please stay tuned to and for details, or contact for more information.

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