IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Guaranteed Income: SSI and the Well-Being of the Elderly Poor


  • Kathleen McGarry


Discussions of changes in the Social Security program must necessarily consider the impact of such changes on the well-being of the poor elderly. Under the current system, the financial needs of this population are met by the Supplement Security Income program (SSI). SSI has done much to improve situation of the poorest elderly but has the potential to do more. This paper examines that potential. One of the most surprising aspect of the program is that many of those eligible for benefits are not enrolled. Here I examine the correlates of participation for a sample of eligible individuals and use the results to simulate the effect of changes in eligibility criteria on participation and on costs. The largest expansion considered in the paper, providing an income guarantee for all elderly individuals that is equal to the poverty line, increases payments directed towards the elderly by 90 percent, to just over 8 billion in 1993 dollars. Although large, this $8 billion is less than half of the expenditures for the SSI disabled population in that year. Modifications to SSI that increase income disregards, eliminate the asset test, or base income eligibility solely on Social Security income, would be less costly, but would also provide less relief to the poor. Importantly, all programs, including the current system, could have substantially greater effects on poverty if participation rates were increased.

Suggested Citation

  • Kathleen McGarry, 2000. "Guaranteed Income: SSI and the Well-Being of the Elderly Poor," NBER Working Papers 7574, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7574
    Note: AG PE

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Fraker, Thomas & Moffitt, Robert, 1988. "The effect of food stamps on labor supply : A bivariate selection model," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 25-56, February.
    2. Moffitt, Robert, 1983. "An Economic Model of Welfare Stigma," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(5), pages 1023-1035, December.
    3. Beth Osborne Daponte & Seth Sanders & Lowell Taylor, 1999. "Why Do Low-Income Households not Use Food Stamps? Evidence from an Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 34(3), pages 612-628.
    4. Jennifer L. Warlick, 1982. "Participation of the Aged in SSI," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 17(2), pages 236-260.
    5. Bruce D. Meyer, 1995. "Lessons from the U.S. Unemployment Insurance Experiments," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 33(1), pages 91-131, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Agneta Stark & Nancy Folbre & Lois Shaw & Timothy Smeeding & Susanna Sandstrom & Lois Shaw & Sunhwa Lee & Kyunghee Chung, 2005. "Poverty And Income Maintenance In Old Age: A Cross-National View Of Low Income Older Women / Growing Old In The Us: Gender And Income Adequacy / Gender And Aging In South Korea," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 11(2), pages 163-197.
    2. Andreea Balan-Cohen, 2008. "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise? The Impact of the Old Age Assistance Program on Elderly Mortality in the United States," Discussion Papers Series, Department of Economics, Tufts University 0719, Department of Economics, Tufts University.
    3. Bruce D. Meyer & Wallace K. C. Mok & James X. Sullivan, 2009. "The Under-Reporting of Transfers in Household Surveys: Its Nature and Consequences," NBER Working Papers 15181, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Deanna Sharpe, 2008. "Economic Status of Older Asians in the United States," Journal of Family and Economic Issues, Springer, vol. 29(4), pages 570-583, December.
    5. Susanna Sandström & Timothy Smeeding, 2005. "Poverty and Income Maintenance in Old Age: A Cross-National View of Low Income Older Women," LIS Working papers 398, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    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:nbr:nberwo:7574. 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: .

    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 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.

    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.