Panel Paper: Employment and Economic Well-Being of People with Disabilities Before and After the Great Recession

Thursday, November 8, 2012 : 4:00 PM
Washington (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Gina Livermore and Todd Honeycutt, Mathematica Policy Research

The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers two programs that provide income support to nearly 12 million working-age people with disabilities–the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. To qualify, SSI/DI applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to work at substantial levels due to a long-term impairment. The passage of the 1999 Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act prompted numerous changes in the disability programs intended to encourage beneficiary return-to-work efforts. Though generally believed that the majority of beneficiaries do not attempt to secure a job once they are on the disability rolls, recent studies show that interest in work and work activity are highly prevalent among SSI and DI beneficiaries, and appear to be increasing over time. The onset of the 2007 – 2009 recession however, may have derailed SSA’s efforts to promote work among beneficiaries and significantly dampened the employment expectations and success of SSI and DI beneficiaries who face significant employment obstacles even in the best of economic times.

       This study uses data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and data from the 2006 and 2010 National Beneficiary Surveys (NBS) to compare the employment experiences of people with disabilities. The NBS is a nationally representative survey of working-age SSI and DI beneficiaries. The study focuses on Social Security disability beneficiaries during the period from 2006 (the year prior to the start of the recession) to 2010 (the year after the official end but during which high general unemployment persisted). The CPS data are used to compare the experiences of people with disabilities to those without disabilities and to provide context for the findings with respect to Social Security disability beneficiaries. Employment, hours worked, wages, earnings, and occupations are analyzed. We also analyze the employment expectations and barriers reported by beneficiaries, and assess which types of beneficiaries appear to have experienced the greatest changes, presumably in response to the recession. Because the characteristics of people with disabilities might change over time and in response to economic changes, we produce regression-adjusted estimates of all employment outcomes of interest.

       This study builds on a previous study using the NBS data that focused specifically on work-oriented beneficiaries by adding new information about employment outcomes and trends over time. It also represents an extension of other work conducted on the impact of the recession on people with disabilities by covering an extended period of time and using alternative disability measures.