The Changing Economic Status of Disabled Women, 1982–1991: Trends and Their Determinants
This study provides an assessment of the intertemporal economic well-being of a representative sample of women who began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) in 1980–81. We compare their economic circumstances over the 1982–1991 period with those of disabled men who also began receiving SSDI in those years and with those of a matched sample of nondisabled women who had sufficient work experience for benefit eligibility should they have become disabled. In 1982, the new SSDI women beneficiaries were a relatively poor segment of U.S. society: one quarter of them lived in poverty and 48 percent had incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line. As of 1991, over one-half of these disabled women lived in families with income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Social Security benefits to disabled women have played an important, and growing, role in sustaining economic status. Nevertheless, the level of well-being of these women lies substantially below that of the comparison groups. We statistically relate the poverty status of these new female recipients to sociodemographic factors that would be expected to contribute to lower levels of well-being, and we simulate the effect of Social Security benefits in reducing poverty and replacing earnings. We suggest a number of SSDI-related policy changes that could, at low cost, reduce poverty among the poorest women.
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