Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: Are Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Beneficiaries Entering the Rolls Sooner and Staying Longer? Evidence from Birth Cohorts 1956–1997

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 10:15 AM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Yonatan Ben-Shalom and David Stapleton, Mathematica Policy Research
When the SSDI program was first implemented in 1956, only workers ages 50 to the full retirement age (FRA) were eligible. Over the years, benefits have been extended to an increasingly larger group of younger people. In addition, various external factors, such as the growing cost of health care and greater incentives for states to shift costs to federal programs, have served to funnel more and more young people into SSDI. The rising incidence of SSDI entry by young workers is largely overlooked in most analyses of program growth and proposals for policy reforms, partly because related findings that have been presented are fairly technical and not readily communicable to the general public and important stakeholders. We attempt to make such findings more accessible by showing new historical statistics on the age at which successive birth cohorts start to receive SSDI benefits and how long they remain in that status prior to the FRA. We examine three hypotheses: (1) the percentage of each birth cohort that enters SSDI by each age has grown substantially from the 1956 birth cohort to the 1997 birth cohort; (2) an increasingly large share of older SSDI beneficiaries (for example, aged 60 to 64) consists of those who entered the program as young adults (for example, under age 40) due to both increased entry at early ages and increased longevity; (3) policy changes, administrative changes, court decisions, and changes in the economy have led to shifts in the proportion of birth cohorts entering SSDI by each age. We use SSA actuarial data, Census population estimates, and CDC mortality data to examine these hypotheses. Preliminary results indicate that the rate of entry into SSDI by any specific age for the most recent cohorts is substantially higher than for the first cohort, especially for women.