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The Rise in Disability Recipiency and the Decline in Unemployment

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  • David H. Autor
  • Mark G. Duggan

Abstract

Between 1984 and 2000, the share of non-elderly adults receiving benefits from the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs rose from 3.1 to 5.3 percent. We trace this growth to reduced screening stringency and, due to the interaction between growing wage inequality and a progressive benefits formula, a rising earnings replacement rate. We explore the implications of these changes for the level of labor force participation among the less skilled and their employment responses to adverse employment shocks. Following program liberalization in 1984, DI application and recipiency rates became two to three times as responsive to plausibly exogenous labor demand shocks. Contemporaneously, male and female high school dropouts became increasingly likely to exit the labor force rather than enter unemployment in the event of an adverse shock. The liberalization of the disability program appears to explain both facts. Accounting for the role of disability in inducing labor force exit among the low-skilled unemployed, we calculate that the U.S. unemployment rate would be two-thirds of a percentage point higher at present were it not for the liberalized disability system.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research in its series JCPR Working Papers with number 226.

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Date of creation: 18 Jun 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wop:jopovw:226

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References

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  1. Gruber, Jonathan & Kubik, Jeffrey D., 1997. "Disability insurance rejection rates and the labor supply of older workers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 1-23, April.
  2. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Disability Insurance Benefits and Labor Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1162-1183, December.
  3. Sheshinski, E. & Diamond, P., 1992. "Economic Aspects of Optimal Disability Benefits," Working papers 92-5, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Bound, John & Waidmann, Timothy, 1992. "Disability Transfers, Self-Reported Health, and the Labor Force Attachment of Older Men: Evidence from the Historical Record," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1393-419, November.
  5. Bruce Western & Becky Pettit, 2000. "Incarceration and racial inequality in men's employment," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(1), pages 3-16, October.
  6. Juhn, Chinhui, 1992. "Decline of Male Labor Market Participation: The Role of Declining Market Opportunities," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(1), pages 79-121, February.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
  10. Darius Lakdawalla & Dana Goldman & Jay Bhattacharya, 2001. "Are the Young Becoming More Disabled?," NBER Working Papers 8247, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Timothy J. Bartik, 2003. "Local Economic Development Policies," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 03-91, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
  13. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2000. "Are Recessions Good For Your Health?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 115(2), pages 617-650, May.
  14. 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.
  15. Jaeger, David A, 1997. "Reconciling the Old and New Census Bureau Education Questions: Recommendations for Researchers," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 15(3), pages 300-309, July.
  16. Chinhui Juhn & Kevin M. Murphy & Robert H. Topel, 1991. "Why Has the Natural Rate of Unemployment Increased over Time?," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 22(2), pages 75-142.
  17. Richard B. Freeman, 1991. "Crime and the Employment of Disadvantaged Youths," NBER Working Papers 3875, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. John Bound & Timothy Waidmann, 2000. "Accounting for Recent Declines in Employment Rates among the Working-Aged Disabled," NBER Working Papers 7975, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  19. 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.
  20. Timothy J. Bartik, 1991. "Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development Policies?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wbsle.
  21. Jonathan Gruber & Jeffrey D. Kubik, 1994. "Disability Insurance Rejection Rates and the Labor Supply of Older Workers," NBER Working Papers 4941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Beaudry, Paul & DiNardo, John, 1991. "The Effect of Implicit Contracts on the Movement of Wages over the Business Cycle: Evidence from Micro Data," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 665-88, August.
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