IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/aea/jecper/v20y2006i3p71-96.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding

Author

Listed:
  • David H. Autor
  • Mark G. Duggan

Abstract

The U.S. Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program has grown dramatically over the last 20 years in size and expense. This growth poses significant risks to the finances of the DI program and the broader Social Security system, and raises troubling questions as to whether the program is being misused by claimants. This article first provides an overview of the Disability Insurance program, describing who qualifies for the program, how an individual applies for benefits and how the level of benefits is determined. Next, we summarize the factors responsible for the growth in the DI rolls and discuss how the characteristics of DI recipients have changed as a result. We then explore the extent of moral hazard in the DI program and the effectiveness of the screening process in distinguishing meritorious from nonmeritorious claims. Finally, we identify the challenges that the DI program creates for Social Security finances and Social Security reform, and discuss potential reforms to the DI program.

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2006. "The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 71-96, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:3:p:71-96
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.20.3.71
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/jep.20.3.71
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Parsons, Donald O, 1980. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(1), pages 117-134, February.
    2. Farber, Henry S. & Levy, Helen, 2000. "Recent trends in employer-sponsored health insurance coverage: are bad jobs getting worse?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 93-119, January.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Richard V. Burkhauser & Mary C. Daly, 2002. "Policy Watch: U.S. Disability Policy in a Changing Environment," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 213-224, Winter.
    6. 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.
    7. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2006. "Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case for Asset Testing," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(2), pages 257-279, April.
    8. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Melissa S. Kearney, 2005. "Trends in U. S. Wage Inequality: Re-Assessing the Revisionists," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 2095, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    9. Diamond, Peter & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1995. "Economic aspects of optimal disability benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 1-23, May.
    10. David C. Stapleton & Richard V. Burkhauser (ed.), 2003. "The Decline in Employment of People with Disabilities: A Policy Puzzle," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number depd.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. Bound, John, 1991. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1427-1434, December.
    14. 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.
    15. John Bound & Timothy Waidmann, 1992. "Disability Transfers, Self-Reported Health, and the Labor Force Attachment of Older Men: Evidence from the Historical Record," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1393-1419.
    16. Chinhui Juhn & Kevin Murphy & Robert Topel, 2002. "Current Unemployment, Historically Contemplated," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 33(1), pages 79-136.
    17. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise in the Disability Rolls and the Decline in Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-206.
    18. Parsons, Donald O, 1991. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1419-1426, December.
    19. 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.
    20. John Bound & Richard Burkhauser & Austin Nichols, 2001. "Tracking the Household Income of SSDI and SSI Applicants," Working Papers wp009, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    21. Jonathan Gruber & Jeffrey Kubik, 2002. "Health Insurance Coverage and the Disability Insurance Application Decision," NBER Working Papers 9148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Mark Duggan & Perry Singleton & Jae Song, 2005. "Aching to Retire? The Rise in the Full Retirement Age and its Impact on the Disability Rolls," NBER Working Papers 11811, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Chen, Susan & van der Klaauw, Wilbert, 2008. "The work disincentive effects of the disability insurance program in the 1990s," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 757-784, February.
    3. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2001. "The Rise in Disability Recipiency and the Decline in Unemployment," JCPR Working Papers 226, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    4. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Butler, J. S. & Gumus, Gulcin, 2003. "Dynamic Modeling of the SSDI Application Timing Decision: The Importance of Policy Variables," IZA Discussion Papers 942, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    5. Perry Singleton, 2009. "The Effective Target of the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 119, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    6. Hamish Low & Luigi Pistaferri, 2010. "Disability Risk, Disability Insurance and Life Cycle Behavior," NBER Working Papers 15962, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Mari Rege & Kjetil Telle & Mark Votruba, 2009. "The Effect of Plant Downsizing on Disability Pension Utilization," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 7(4), pages 754-785, June.
    8. Krueger, Alan B. & Meyer, Bruce D., 2002. "Labor supply effects of social insurance," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 33, pages 2327-2392, Elsevier.
    9. Hamish Low & Luigi Pistaferri, 2020. "Disability Insurance: Theoretical Trade‐Offs and Empirical Evidence," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 41(1), pages 129-164, March.
    10. repec:eee:labchp:v:3:y:1999:i:pc:p:3417-3528 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Shu, Pian, 2015. "Asset accumulation and labor force participation of disability insurance applicants," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 26-40.
    12. Duggan, Mark & Singleton, Perry & Song, Jae, 2007. "Aching to retire? The rise in the full retirement age and its impact on the social security disability rolls," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1327-1350, August.
    13. Burkhauser, Richard V. & Butler, J. S. & Gumus, Gulcin, 2003. "Option Value and Dynamic Programming Model Estimates of Social Security Disability Insurance Application Timing," IZA Discussion Papers 941, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    14. David H. Autor & Mark Duggan & Kyle Greenberg & David S. Lyle, 2016. "The Impact of Disability Benefits on Labor Supply: Evidence from the VA's Disability Compensation Program," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(3), pages 31-68, July.
    15. Meyer, Bruce D. & Mok, Wallace K.C., 2019. "Disability, earnings, income and consumption," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 171(C), pages 51-69.
    16. Bruce Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok, 2016. "Disability, Earnings, Income and Consumption," NBER Chapters, in: Social Insurance Programs (Trans-Atlantic Public Economics Seminar, TAPES), National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. Richard V. Burkhauser & J. S. Butler & Gulcin Gumus, 2004. "Dynamic programming model estimates of Social Security Disability Insurance application timing," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 671-685.
    18. Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Disability Insurance Benefits and Labor Supply," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 108(6), pages 1162-1183, December.
    19. Jonathan Gruber & Jeffrey Kubik, 2002. "Health Insurance Coverage and the Disability Insurance Application Decision," NBER Working Papers 9148, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. Daniela Andrén, 2008. "First Exits from the Swedish Labor Market Due to Disability," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 27(2), pages 227-238, April.
    21. Andreas Ravndal Kostol & Magne Mogstad, 2014. "How Financial Incentives Induce Disability Insurance Recipients to Return to Work," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 624-655, February.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:20:y:2006:i:3:p:71-96. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Michael P. Albert (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/aeaaaea.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.