Panel: The Great Recession, Work, and Program Participation of Individuals with Disabilities

Thursday, November 8, 2012: 3:00 PM-4:30 PM
Washington (Sheraton Baltimore City Center Hotel)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Organizers:  Purvi Sevak, Hunter College - CUNY
Moderators:  Reagan Baughman, University of New Hampshire and Purvi Sevak, Hunter College - CUNY
Chairs:  David Wittenburg, Mathematica Policy Research

Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that disabled workers were hit much harder by the recent recession than workers without disabilities – job losses among workers with disabilities far exceeded those of workers without disabilities and since the official end of the recession, unemployment rates of workers with disabilities have not fallen at rates similar to workers without disabilities. This session will feature three papers which examine how the recent recession and other recessions affected beneficiaries of two Federal disability insurance programs, the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program and the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. DI and SSI provide income support to nearly 12 million working-age people with disabilities. To qualify, SSI/DI applicants must demonstrate that they are unable to work at substantial levels due to a long-term impairment. The first paper (Benítez-Silva and Yin) examines how the health of applicants to the DI program varies over the business cycle, and whether the decision to apply and the timing of application vary over the business cycle. The second paper (Schmidt and Sevak) examines whether changes in local economic conditions affect SSI participation, and whether these effects are heterogeneous across demographic characteristics (gender, age, marital status, former AFDC/TANF participation). In addition, it explores whether state TANF policies and state budgetary distress affects caseloads. The third study (Livermore) focuses on employment outcomes of DI beneficiaries over the business cycle. 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. Understanding how the characteristics of disability applicants and beneficiaries change over the business cycle is crucial in order to study the best mix of policies in consideration of several objectives. These include keeping workers with health limitations in the labor market, and protecting them during recessions in order to reduce their incentives to apply to the DI/SSI programs.

Competitive Employment Outcomes of Vocational Rehabilitation
Frank Martin1, Richard Walls2, Martin Brodwin3, Randall Parker4, Frances Siu3 and Ed Kurata5, (1)Mathematica Policy Research, (2)West Virginia University, (3)California State University, (4)University of Texas at Austin, (5)Self-employed

An Empirical Analysis of Unemployment Duration and Disability Application Decisions
Hugo Benitez-Silva, SUNY-Stony Brook and Na Yin, Baruch College

The Great Recession and Older Workers with Disabilities
Lucie Schmidt, Williams College, Purvi Sevak, Hunter College - CUNY and R. Onur Altindag, Hunter College

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