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Disability risk, disability insurance and life cycle behavior

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  • Hamish Low

    ()
    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Trinity College, Cambridge)

  • Luigi Pistaferri

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Stanford University)

Abstract

The Disability Insurance (DI) program in the US is a large social insurance program that offers income replacement benefits to people with work limiting disabilities. The proportion of DI claimants in the US is now almost 5% of the working-age population and the cost is three times that of unemployment insurance. The key questions in thinking about the size and growth of the DI program are whether program claimants are genuinely unable to work, and how valuable is the insurance provided. This paper has three aims: We provide a framework for weighing up the insurance value of disability benefi…ts against the incentive cost of inducing healthy individuals to stop work at different points of their life-cycle. We estimate the risks to health that may lead to work-limiting disabilities and the risk to wages that may lead to individuals choosing not to work. We also estimate the extent of false awards made through the DI program alongside the proportion of awards to those in genuine need. We use our model and estimates to characterize the economic effects of the disability insurance and to consider how policy reforms would affect behaviour and standard measures of household welfare. We differentiate disability status by its severity, and show that a severe disability shock leads to a decline in wages of 40%, as well as a substantial rise in the fixed cost of going to work. In terms of the effectiveness of the DI program, we estimate high levels of rejections of genuine applicants. In our counterfactual simulations, this means that household welfare increases as the program becomes less strict, despite the worsening incentives for false applications that this implies. On the other hand, incentives for false applications are reduced by reducing generosity and increasing reassessments, and these policies increase household welfare, despite the worse insurance implied.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for Fiscal Studies in its series IFS Working Papers with number W10/11.

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Date of creation: May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:ifs:ifsewp:10/11

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Keywords: Disability; social security; savings behavior; wage risk;

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References

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  1. Bound, John, 1989. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(3), pages 482-503, June.
  2. Steven Stern, 1989. "Measuring the Effect of Disability on Labor Force Participation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 24(3), pages 361-395.
  3. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu Man Chan & Sofia Cheidvasser & John Rust, 2000. "How Large is the Bias is Self-Reported Disability?," NBER Working Papers 7526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-34, February.
  5. Diamond, Peter & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1995. "Economic aspects of optimal disability benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 1-23, May.
  6. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu-Man Chan & John Rust & Sofia Sheivasser, 1997. "An Empirical Analysis of the Social Security Disability Application, Appeal, and Award Process," Public Economics 9712001, EconWPA, revised 16 Feb 1998.
  7. Low, Hamish & Meghir, Costas & Pistaferri, Luigi, 2007. "Wage Risk and Employment Risk Over the Life Cycle," CEPR Discussion Papers 6187, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Gallipoli, Giovanni & Turner, Laura, 2009. "Household Responses to Individual Shocks: Disability and Labour Supply," CLSSRN working papers clsrn_admin-2009-32, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 22 Jun 2009.
  9. David Autor & Mark Duggan, 2006. "The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding," NBER Working Papers 12436, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Amy Finkelstein & Erzo F. P. Luttmer & Matthew J. Notowidigdo, 2013. "What Good Is Wealth Without Health? The Effect Of Health On The Marginal Utility Of Consumption," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 11, pages 221-258, 01.
  11. Oliver Denk & Jean-Baptiste Michau, 2013. "Optimal Social Security with Imperfect Tagging," Working Papers hal-00796521, HAL.
  12. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & John Rust, 2004. "How Large are the Classification Errors in the Social Security Disability Award Process?," NBER Working Papers 10219, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Orazio P. Attanasio & Guglielmo Weber, 1994. "Is Consumption Growth Consistent with Intertemporal Optimization? Evidence from the Consumer Expenditure Survey," NBER Working Papers 4795, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2005. "Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case for Asset Testing," Levine's Bibliography 784828000000000450, UCLA Department of Economics.
  15. Dan Black & Kermit Daniel & Seth Sanders, 2002. "The Impact of Economic Conditions on Participation in Disability Programs: Evidence from the Coal Boom and Bust," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 27-50, March.
  16. Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2009. "Why do the elderly save? the role of medical expenses," Working Paper Series WP-09-02, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  17. Bound, John & Cullen, Julie Berry & Nichols, Austin & Schmidt, Lucie, 2004. "The welfare implications of increasing disability insurance benefit generosity," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(12), pages 2487-2514, December.
  18. Bound, John & Burkhauser, Richard V., 1999. "Economic analysis of transfer programs targeted on people with disabilities," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 51, pages 3417-3528 Elsevier.
  19. Kreider, Brent, 1999. "Latent Work Disability and Reporting Bias," Staff General Research Papers 5185, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  20. John Bound, 1991. "Self-Reported Versus Objective Measures of Health in Retirement Models," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(1), pages 106-138.
  21. Kreider, Brent & Pepper, John V., 2007. "Disability and Employment: Reevaluating the Evidence in Light of Reporting Errors," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 102, pages 432-441, June.
  22. Timothy Waidman & John Bound & Austin Nichols, 2003. "Disability Benefits as Social Insurance: Tradeoffs Between Screening Stringency and Benefit Generosity in Optimal Program Design," Working Papers wp042, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Hamish Low & Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2010. "Wage Risk and Employment Risk over the Life Cycle," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 100(4), pages 1432-67, September.
  2. Bick, Alexander & Choi, Sekyu, 2013. "Revisiting the effect of household size on consumption over the life-cycle," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 37(12), pages 2998-3011.
  3. García-Gómez, Pilar, 2011. "Institutions, health shocks and labour market outcomes across Europe," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 200-213, January.
  4. Pilar García-Gómez & Hans-Martin Gaudecker & Maarten Lindeboom, 2011. "Health, disability and work: patterns for the working age population," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer, vol. 18(2), pages 146-165, April.
  5. Buetler, Monika & Lechner, Michael & Thiemann, Petra & Deuchert, Eva & Staubli, Stefan, 2014. "Financial work incentives for disability benefit recipients: Lessons from a randomized field experiment," Economics Working Paper Series 1406, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  6. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok, 2006. "Disability, Earnings, Income and Consumption," Working Papers 0610, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  7. Elena Capatina, 2012. "Life Cycle Effects of Health Risk," Working Papers 201216, ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), Australian School of Business, University of New South Wales.
  8. Eric French & Jae Song, 2012. "The effect of Disability Insurance receipt on labor supply: a dynamic analysis," Working Paper Series WP-2012-12, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

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