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Work Incentives in the Social Security Disability Benefit Formula

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  • Gopi Shah Goda
  • John B. Shoven
  • Sita Slavov

Abstract

We examine the connection between taxes paid and benefits accrued under the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program on both the intensive and extensive margins. We perform these calculations for stylized workers given the existing benefit structure and disability hazard rates. On the intensive margin, we examine the effect of an additional dollar of earnings on the marginal payroll taxes contributed and future benefits earned. We find that the present discounted value of disability benefits received from an additional dollar of earnings, net of the SSDI payroll tax, generally declines with age, becoming negative around age 40 and reaching almost zero at age 63. On the extensive margin, we determine the effect of working an additional year on the additional payroll taxes and future benefits as a percentage of income. The return to working an additional year at an income level just large enough to earn Social Security credits for the year is large and positive through age 60. However, the return to working an additional full year is substantially smaller and becomes negative at approximately age 57. Thus, older workers face strong incentives to earn enough to obtain creditable coverage through age 60, but they face disincentives for additional earnings. In addition, workers ages 61 and older face work disincentives at any level of earnings. We repeat this analysis for stylized workers at different levels of earnings and find that, while the program transfers resources from high earners to low earners, the workers experience similar patterns in the returns to working.

Suggested Citation

  • Gopi Shah Goda & John B. Shoven & Sita Slavov, 2015. "Work Incentives in the Social Security Disability Benefit Formula," NBER Working Papers 21708, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21708
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Eric French, 2005. "The Effects of Health, Wealth, and Wages on Labour Supply and Retirement Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 395-427.
    2. Liebman, Jeffrey B. & Luttmer, Erzo F.P. & Seif, David G., 2009. "Labor supply responses to marginal Social Security benefits: Evidence from discontinuities," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(11-12), pages 1208-1223, December.
    3. Nicole Maestas & Kathleen J. Mullen & Alexander Strand, 2013. "Does Disability Insurance Receipt Discourage Work? Using Examiner Assignment to Estimate Causal Effects of SSDI Receipt," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1797-1829, August.
    4. Cushing, Matthew J., 2005. "Net Marginal Social Security Tax Rates Over the Life Cycle," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 58(2), pages 227-245, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Michael J. Boskin & Diego J. Perez & Daniel S. Bennett, 2019. "The Political Economy of Social Security Reform," NBER Working Papers 25985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H31 - Public Economics - - Fiscal Policies and Behavior of Economic Agents - - - Household
    • H53 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Government Expenditures and Welfare Programs
    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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