Cancer Patients and Survivors Want to Work but Face Challenges

This week the CEO of Goldman Sachs announced that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma and would continue to work while receiving treatment.  Whether one remains at/returns to work after a cancer diagnosis depends greatly on an individual’s situation, but an online survey of American cancer patients and survivors found the majority (73 percent) want to work, citing financial concerns but also the belief that working helps in their overall recovery.

According to the survey, conducted by the Harris Poll for Cancer and Careers, although most respondents enjoy working, they also face challenges balancing their health needs with the workplace. For example, women were more likely than men to report working a reduced schedule due to treatment, and people of color were more likely to be advised by a medical professional to stop working while in treatment. Other findings from the poll,

  • fatigue was the primary daily challenge of employed respondents,
  • 20 percent have concerns that taking days off will weaken their employment stability, and
  • 65 percent feel that additional information is needed around navigating employment and workplace issues after a cancer diagnosis.

Additional data from the study is at the Cancer and Careers website, along with a resource library and employment search services and tools.

Inmate Education Programs: Save Dollars, Decrease Risk of Re-Offending, Help Employment Odds

Latest analysis of educational and vocational programs in prisons indicate they lead to employment, decrease risk of recidivism.
Latest analysis of educational and vocational programs in prisons found they lead to employment, decrease risk of recidivism.

American prisons have offered education programs of one kind or another since the end of the 18th century; and though funding decreased during the 1980’s and 1990’s, the majority of correctional institutions still offer some type of educational and vocational programming. While opinions vary on what prisons and time spent within them should “look like”, research in the correctional field indicates that vocational training and educational programs increase the likelihood that a participant will maintain a law-abiding existence upon their return to the community.  The most recent addition to this research is the RAND report, Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education A Meta-Analysis of Programs That Provide Education to Incarcerated Adults by Lois M. Davis, Robert Bozick, Jennifer L. Steele, Jessica Saunders and Jeremy N. V. Miles, discussing the impact of educating persons housed in correctional institutions and how the most effective programs could be administered across different settings.

Studies have shown that employment is a major predictor of recidivism; RAND’s meta-analysis (utilizing studies with treatment and comparison groups) spans from 1980 until 2011, including programs funded under the Second Chance Act of 2007 aimed at improving outcomes (such as employment) through education to inmates planning to return to their communities upon completion of their term.  Some highlights  (the full report is available at the RAND website):

  • Participation in correctional education did result in a decreased recidivism risk, the likelihood of re-offending, after release.
  • Although any participation in educational/vocational programming increased the likelihood of post-release employment, the likelihood was higher for those in vocational training rather than academic programs.
  • Initial cost comparisons found that money is saved through prison education due to the lower risk of recidivism gained through such programs, compared to the costs of  re-incarcerating re-offending inmates.

Not only does such research inform (or confirm) policy decisions impacting state and federal prisons, it has opened the door for start-ups, and even nonprofits, to provide more convenient and potentially more secure ways to educate inmates.  Prison education, wireless technology and social enterprise – keep an eye on that intersection in the upcoming year.


NOTE: If you are interested in reading more about correctional education, employment training and returning to the community post-incarceration, check out the documents from the 2008  Reentry Roundtable sponsored by the The Prisoner Reentry Institute at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and The Urban Institute.




Photo by User:Nyttend (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Veterans, PTSD and Employment


What is the relationship between military deployment and employment upon returning home? How does wartime service impact the future earnings of veterans?   Is there a link between Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and unemployment?

A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, Unemployment among Recent Veterans during the Great Recession by Jason Faberman and Taft Foster, found that recent veterans have higher rates of unemployment than non-veterans or older veterans. Taking demographic variables and economic cycles into consideration, the report concludes that the rigors and aftereffects of wartime deployment do have an impact on employment upon return.

A technical report from RAND, takes a closer look at one of the potential impacts of serving during a conflict, namely PTSD, among reservists and post-deployment employment earnings.  Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the Earnings of Military Reservists by David S. Loughran and Paul Heaton (e-book is available for download at the RAND website), examines data on PTSD symptoms in reservists completing deployments from 2003 to 2006 and labor market data in an effort to determine a relationship to employment earnings.  The data initially indicated that reservists with symptoms of PTSD  earned less income the year following their return than their counterparts not experiencing symptoms. Additional analysis showed that some differences were present prior to deployment, specifically lower average earnings and a lower level of education.  Further, the researchers found that the gap in employment earnings was greatly minimized (down to a range of 1% – 4%) through the accounting for demographic variables and use of statistical models.

Although the gap in earnings between reservists symptomatic of PTSD post-deployment and those who were not is much smaller than initially indicated, the report suggests that there may be a relationship between PTSD symptoms and underemployment.  Also, the authors note that their study focused primarily on the first year post-deployment, and some manifestations of PTSD may occur at a later point in time.

PTSD makes up 65 percent of the disability claims of recent veterans, according to a 2013 survey from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).  Half of the IAVA survey respondents had friends or family suggest that they seek treatment for a mental health injury, while 37 percent of members knew a veteran who had committed suicide and just under a third (30 percent) had considered it themselves.  Although the data on the relationship between PTSD and unemployment is mixed, the challenge to find work while being open about experiencing PTSD is a real one.   The dialogue and the research need to continue.



Fewer Summer Jobs for Teens Fits Trend of Declining Youth Employment

Summertime employment has traditionally been seen as a rite of passage, a builder of character and a source of funding for teenage frolic, but even a part-time job serving burgers or minding the retail racks isn’t easy to come by these days.  In 2000, the average summer employment rate was nearly 52 percent, dropping to 30 percent last year.  In 2012, just a quarter  of teens reported having a paying job.*

The report, The Dismal State of the Nation’s Teen Summer Job Market, 2008-2012, and the Outlook for the Summer of 2013, from the Center for Labor and Market studies at Northeastern University details the decline in teenage employment rates and the weakness of the current job market and what that means for young adults.  A key take-away from the report is that household income was a better predictor of youth employment than race.  Low income youth were least likely to be working. As family income rose, so did teen employment rates, with 21 percent of youth  from households earning under $20,000  reporting summer employment compared to 38 percent from households earning between $100,000 and $150,000 a year.

The sad state of teen summer employment isn’t surprising considering the decline of the overall youth employment rate.  A policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation on the growing number of  teens and young adults both unemployed and not in school –  referred to as disconnected youth in the brief – found that such youth were most likely to be from low income families. Specifically,

  • 21 percent of low income (under $20,000/household) 16-to-19 year old youth were disconnected compared to 8 percent of their counterparts in families with an income over $100,000; and
  •  among 20-to 24-year-olds from low income families, 30 percent were not in school or employed,compared  to 10 percent of those from families earning $100,000 or more.

The Pennsylvania employment rate for young adults (20 to 24 years old) is approximately 62 percent, for teens 16 to 19, 39 percent.

The authors of the report Youth and Work: Restoring Teen and Young Adult Connections to Opportunitychallenge policy makers to find cooperative cross-system approaches to reconnecting and reengaging youth with education and employment opportunities.  An approach that is flexible enough to use the strengths of the community where it operates but based in proven outreach and engagement strategies that go beyond mere job-matching  might have a chance, if the funding survives.

If you are interested in learning more about models of youth employment initiatives check out  Best Practices for Youth Employment Programs:A Synthesis of Current Research from What Works, Wisconsin.




*Source: Andrew Sum, Ishwar Khatiwada, Walter McHugh, and Sheila Palma, The Dismal State of the Nation’s Teen Summer Job Market, 2008-2012, and the Outlook for the Summer of 2013, Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University, May 2013.