RAND Study Examines Access to Dental Care in Pennsylvania

Although it is preventable, dental disease is perhaps the most prevalent chronic childhood illness in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of children 5 to 11 years old have one tooth with untreated decay, a situation that may lead to more severe health problems. Youth from lower-income families have a higher rate of untreated tooth decay than their peers.

As dental care has long been a component of public health policyRAND examined access to dental care across Pennsylvania using a series of indicators to determine the distribution and available of dentists and dental hygienists. Two counties (Potter and Juniata) did not meet the guideline of full-time dentist per number of residents. Other counties varied greatly across study indicators. A sample of findings:

  • Two counties do not have dentists that accept Medicaid.
  • 58 percent of counties in Pennsylvania do not have pediatric dental specialists.
  • High unemployment rates were associated with fewer providers of dental care.
  • The Head Start program appears to be a successful method in getting dental care to children who might not otherwise have access to it.

The full report, including a discussion of associations of the study’s access-to-care indicators to each other, as well as to county demographics, is available for download on the RAND website.



Citation:  Baird, Matthew D., Michelle K. Baird and Joseph V. Vesely. Access to Dental Providers in Pennsylvania: Exploration of the County-Level Distribution of Dental Providers and Populations in 2013. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1351.html.


Pennsylvania’s Student Achievement Gap

As students ready themselves to return to their classrooms, a report from the RAND Corporation looks past test scores to the issue of Pennsylvania’s student achievement gap – one of the largest in the country.  Although data from 2013 Pennsylvania standardized tests ranks the Commonwealth among the top ten states in student performance (according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)) RAND found sizable achievement gaps according to race/ethnicity, economic status, parent education, and school district.

Some study findings:

  • An achievement gap by race/ethnicity: The proportion of white students achieving proficiency or above in reading and math was 24 to 38 percent larger than African-American and Latino students.
  • An achievement gap by economic status: Students from lower economic statuses had lower proficiency scores, and were estimated to be an average of two or three years behind their peers from higher economic statuses.
  • An achievement gap by district: After removing the highest and lowest performing school districts, RAND found performance gaps between districts similar those identified in the race/ethnicity and economic analyses.  Low performing school districts were identified in both urban and rural areas.

The report, The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools by Lynne Karoly, also compares the achievement of Pennsylvania students both nationally and globally, and examines the impact that gaps in academic performance may have on Pennsylvania’s  economy.  The full report is available at the RAND website.




Report  Citation: Karoly, Lynn A.. The Economic Impact of Achievement Gaps in Pennsylvania’s Public Schools. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1159.

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.