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Disability Insurance Rejection Rates and the Labor Supply of Older Workers

  • Jonathan Gruber
  • Jeffrey D. Kubik

Disability Insurance (DI), which provides income support to disabled workers, has been criticized for inducing a large fall in the labor force participation rate of older workers. We study the effects of one policy response designed to address this moral hazard problem: raising the rate at which DI claims are denied. Initial DI applications are decided at the state level, and, in response to a funding crisis for the DI program in the late 1970s, the states raised their rejection rates for first time applicants by 30% on average. The extent of this rise, however, varied substantially across states. We use this variation to estimate a significant reduction in labor force non-participation among older workers in response to denial rate rises. A 10% increase in denial rates led to a 2.7% fall in non- participation among 45-64 year old males; between 1/2 and 2/3 of this effect is a true reduction in labor force leaving, with the remainder accounted for by the return to work of denied applicants. We find some support for the notion that increases in denial rates effectively target their incentive effects to more able individuals; the fall in labor force non-participation was much stronger among more able workers, according to an anthropometric measure of disability.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 4941.

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Date of creation: Nov 1994
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Publication status: published as Gruber, Jonathan and Jeffrey D. Kubik. "Disability Insurance Rejection Rates And The Labor Supply Of Older Workers," Journal of Public Economics, 1997, v64(1,Apr), 1-23.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4941
Note: AG HC LS PE
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  1. Rebecca Blank & David Card & Whitney Newey, 1988. "Recent Trends in Insured and Uninsured Unemployment: Is There an Explanation?," Working Papers 623, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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  4. 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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  6. Robin L. Lumsdaine & David A. Wise, 1994. "Aging and Labor Force Participation: A Review of Trends and Explanations," NBER Chapters, in: Aging in the United States and Japan: Economic Trends, pages 7-42 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1985. "Labor Supply Incentives and Disincentives for the Disabled," NBER Working Papers 1744, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Butler, J S, et al, 1987. "Measurement Error in Self-reported Health Variables," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 69(4), pages 644-50, November.
  9. Haveman, Robert H & Wolfe, Barbara L, 1984. "The Decline in Male Labor Force Participation: Comment," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(3), pages 532-41, June.
  10. Parsons, Donald O, 1982. "The Male Labour Force Participation Decision: Health, Reported Health, and Economic Incentives," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 49(193), pages 81-91, February.
  11. Kathryn H. Anderson & Richard V. Burkhauser, 1985. "The Retirement-Health Nexus: A New Measure of an Old Puzzle," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 20(3), pages 315-330.
  12. Howard P. Marvel, 1982. "An Economic Analysis of the Operation of Social Security Disability Insurance," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(3), pages 393-412.
  13. Rebecca M. Blank & Patricia Ruggles, 1993. "When Do Women Use AFDC & Food Stamps? The Dynamics of Eligibility vs. Participation," NBER Working Papers 4429, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-35, December.
  15. 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.
  16. Diamond, Peter & Sheshinski, Eytan, 1995. "Economic aspects of optimal disability benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(1), pages 1-23, May.
  17. Jonathan S. Leonard, 1979. "The Social Security Disability Program and Labor Force Participation," NBER Working Papers 0392, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. Parsons, Donald O, 1991. "Self-Screening in Targeted Public Transfer Programs," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(4), pages 859-76, August.
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