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Disability risk, disability insurance and life cycle behavior

  • Hamish Low

    ()

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Trinity College, Cambridge)

  • Luigi Pistaferri

    (Institute for Fiscal Studies and Stanford University)

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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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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  1. 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.
  2. Finkelstein, Amy & Luttmer, Erzo F. P. & Notowidigdo, Matthew J., 2008. "What Good Is Wealth without Health? The Effect of Health on the Marginal Utility of Consumption," Working Paper Series rwp08-036, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  3. John Bound & Julie Berry Cullen & Austin Nichols & Lucie Schmidt, 2002. "The Welfare Implications of Increasing Disability Insurance Benefit Generosity," NBER Working Papers 9155, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. 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.
  5. Oliver Denk & Jean-Baptiste Michau, 2013. "Optimal Social Security with Imperfect Tagging," Working Papers hal-00796521, HAL.
  6. Jérome Adda & James Banks & Hans-Martin von Gaudecker, 2007. "The Impact of Income Shocks on Health: Evidence from Cohort Data," MEA discussion paper series 07146, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  7. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Moshe Buchinsky & Hiu Man Chan & Sofia Cheidvasser & John Rust, 2000. "How Large is the Bias in Self-Reported Disability?," Working Papers 2000-01, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  8. Mikhail Golosov & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2004. "Designing Optimal Disability Insurance: A Case for Asset Testing," NBER Working Papers 10792, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  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. Hamish Low & Costas Meghir & Luigi Pistaferri, 2009. "Wage Risk and Employment Risk over the Life Cycle," NBER Working Papers 14901, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. Mariacristina De Nardi & Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2009. "Why do the Elderly Save? The Role of Medical Expenses," NBER Working Papers 15149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. 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.
  13. Mary C. Daly & Richard V. Burkhauser, 2002. "The Supplemental Security Income program," Working Paper Series 2002-20, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
  14. 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.
  15. Diamond, Peter & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1995. "Economic aspects of optimal disability benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 1-23, May.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Brent Kreider, 1999. "Latent Work Disability and Reporting Bias," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(4), pages 734-769.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. Benitez-Silva, Hugo & Buchinsky, Moshe & Chan, Hiu Man & Rust, John & Sheidvasser, Sofia, 1999. "An empirical analysis of the social security disability application, appeal, and award process," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 147-178, June.
  25. 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.
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