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Aching to Retire? The Rise in the Full Retirement Age and its Impact on the Disability Rolls

  • Mark Duggan
  • Perry Singleton
  • Jae Song

The Social Security Amendments of 1983 reduced the generosity of Social Security retired worker benefits in the U.S. by increasing the program's full retirement age from 65 to 67 and increasing the penalty for claiming benefits at the early retirement age of 62. These changes were phased in gradually, so that individuals born in or before 1937 were unaffected and those born in 1960 or later were fully affected. No corresponding changes were made to the program's disabled worker benefits, and thus the relative generosity of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits increased. In this paper, we investigate the effect of the Amendments on SSDI enrollment by exploiting variation across birth cohorts in the policy-induced reduction in the present value of retired worker benefits. Our findings indicate that the Amendments significantly increased SSDI enrollment since 1983, with an additional 0.6 percent of men and 0.9 percent of women between the ages of 45 and 64 receiving SSDI benefits in 2005 as a result of the changes. Our results further indicate that these effects will continue to increase during the next two decades, as those fully exposed to the reduction in retirement benefit generosity reach their fifties and early sixties.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11811.

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Date of creation: Dec 2005
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Publication status: published as Duggan, Mark, Perry Singelton and Jae Song. "Aching to Retire? The Rise in the Full Retirement Age and it's Impact on the Disability Rolls." Journal of Public Economics 91, 7 (August 2007): 1327-50.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11811
Note: AG HE PE
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  1. Kreider, Brent, 1999. "Social Security Disability Insurance: Applications, Awards, and Lifetime Income Flows," Staff General Research Papers 5188, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  2. Jonathan Gruber, 1996. "Disability Insurance Benefits and Labor Supply," NBER Working Papers 5866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  5. Jeffrey M. Wooldridge, 2001. "Econometric Analysis of Cross Section and Panel Data," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262232197, June.
  6. 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.
  7. Mark G. Duggan & Melissa Schettini Kearney, 2007. "The impact of child SSI enrollment on household outcomes," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 26(4), pages 861-886.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
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  12. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2003. "The Rise In The Disability Rolls And The Decline In Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 157-205, February.
  13. Parsons, Donald O, 1991. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1419-26, December.
  14. John Bound & Julie Berry Cullen & Austin Nichols & Lucie Schmidt, 2002. "The Welfare Implications of Increasing Disability Insurance Benefit Generosity," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-02, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  15. Lucie Schmidt & Purvi Sevak, 2004. "AFDC, SSI, and Welfare Reform Aggressiveness: Caseload Reductions versus Caseload Shifting," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(3).
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. Bowen Garrett & Sherry Glied, 2000. "Does state AFDC generosity affect child SSI participation?," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(2), pages 275-295.
  19. Bound, John, 1991. "The Health and Earnings of Rejected Disability Insurance Applicants: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1427-34, December.
  20. Kubik, Jeffrey D., 2003. "Fiscal Federalism and Welfare Policy: The Role of States in the Growth of Child SSI," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(1), pages 61-79, March.
  21. Mark Duggan & Scott A. Imberman, 2009. "Why Are the Disability Rolls Skyrocketing? The Contribution of Population Characteristics, Economic Conditions, and Program Generosity," NBER Chapters, in: Health at Older Ages: The Causes and Consequences of Declining Disability among the Elderly, pages 337-379 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. Bruce D. Meyer, 1988. "Unemployment Insurance And Unemployment Spells," NBER Working Papers 2546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  23. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2005. "The social security early entitlement age in a structural model of retirement and wealth," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 441-463, February.
  24. Lucie Schmidt & Purvi Sevak, 2000. "AFDC, SSI, and Welfare Reform Aggressiveness: Caseload Reductions vs. Caseload Shifting," Department of Economics Working Papers 2002-03, Department of Economics, Williams College.
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