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

Panel Paper: Are Disability Applicants Unhealthier Than Ever?

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 10:35 AM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Matthew S. Rutledge1, April Yanyuan Wu2, Qi Guan1 and Brad Trenkamp3, (1)Boston College, (2)Mathematica Policy Research, (3)Social Security Administration
The proportion of the population receiving benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is at a record-high. Most existing research focuses on economic motivations for applying for benefits, but less is known about whether more SSDI and SSI applicants are receiving benefits because they are less healthy. This paper uses a unique dataset that combines administrative SSDI and SSI records from the Social Security Administration with health measures and personal characteristics from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to examine whether SSDI and SSI applicants are more likely to report negative health outcomes one year or more before application, and whether their health differs by age or the application’s ultimate success.  The descriptive analysis finds a clear trend toward better self-reported health, fewer work limitations, and fewer limitations in the Activities of Daily Living for all ages and for both allowed and denied applicants.  But the regression-adjusted trend lines are flat; these differences are accounted for by the greater duration between health interviews and disability applications in the later period.  These results indicate that there is no evidence to support the claim that the health of SSDI and SSI applicants has declined over time.

Full Paper: