Improving Employment Outcomes for People with Psychiatric Disorders and Other Disabilities. B. Results

04/01/2014

1. Demographic characteristics of SSDI applicants and at-risk group members.

The demographic characteristics of SSDI applicants in our sample are similar to those in previous studies. Compared to all individuals ages 25-55, SSDI applicants were significantly more likely to be older, Black, divorced, have less education, and have lower household incomes (Table IV.3). Members of the high-risk groups we examined had similar demographic characteristics as SSDI applicants, though many groups had higher proportions of individuals who were younger, who were White, and who had more education compared to SSDI applicants.

TABLE IV.3. Demographic Characteristics of SSDI Applicants and At-Risk Group Members
  SSDI
  Applicants  
  Unemployment  
Insurance
Workers
At Risk of
  Unemployment  
Insurance
High Health
  Expenditures  
Workers'
  Compensation  
Private
  Disability  
Insurance
  Veteran's   Job
Training/
  Education  
Services
All
  Individuals  
Ages 25-55
Female 53.0% 45.0% 50.4% 56.6% 46.1% 51.8% 9.7%** 54.2% 50.9%
Age (mean) 44.7 42.3* 41.1* 41.7* 41.9* 44.2 45.7 42.2* 39.4**
Race
   Asian 1.6% 1.6% 0.9% 2.8% 2.9% 2.6% 0.7% 1.0% 4.2%**
   Black 19.4% 13.4% 10.2%* 10.1%* 15.2% 16.3% 17.3% 11.8%* 11.9%**
   White 76.1% 82.2% 87.0%* 85.5%* 79.4% 78.5% 78.3% 84.7%* 82.1%**
   Other 2.9% 2.8% 2.0% 1.7% 2.6% 2.7% 3.7% 2.5% 1.8%
Marital Status
   Married 53.4% 52.2% 35.2%* 49.7% 56.3% 54.8% 55.8% 56.1% 64.5%**
   Never married 18.2% 20.5% 32.1%* 20.9% 19.7% 20.1% 13.9% 20.4% 19.1%
   Widowed 2.5% 2.2% 2.7% 2.8% 2.0% 2.7% 1.3% 1.9% 1.2%
   Divorced 20.9% 20.9% 23.9% 22.3% 17.4% 17.6% 24.3% 17.7% 12.2%**
   Separated 5.1% 4.3% 6.2% 4.2% 4.5% 4.8% 4.7% 3.8% 3.0%*
Educational Attainment
   Less than high school diploma 20.0% 17.9% 25.3% 11.8%* 18.0% 15.4% 8.3%* 7.7%* 11.8%**
   High school diploma/GED 34.4% 32.5% 46.0%* 29.9% 37.9% 32.1% 34.1% 23.2%* 28.2%**
   Some college 36.0% 39.1% 22.1%* 34.6% 32.1% 37.1% 45.9%* 44.7%* 32.1%
   Four-year college degree or more 9.7% 10.4% 6.6% 23.7% 12.0% 15.4% 11.7% 24.4%* 27.8%**
Monthly Household Income $2,802 $3,820* $3,625* $3,240* $5,402* $5,428* $3,931* $5,146* $5,783**
Applied to SSDI
   Number 3,380,365 68,849 99,095 251,233 161,671 176,550 153,821 114,687 3,380,365
   Percent 100.0% 13.3% 14.7% 5.6% 13.9% 21.7% 12.7% 9.0% 2.8%
Unweighted Sample Size 3,754 559 714 4,768 1,234 860 1,285 1,365 127,972
Weighted Sample Size (average per panel) 3,380,365 516,976 674,944 4,491,099 1,162,518 813,566 1,208,894 1,268,832 121,410,365
SOURCE: 1996, 2001, and 2004 SIPP panels.
NOTES: Demographic characteristics of SSDI applicants and of at-risk group members at the time they were identified as group members are shown in the table. The statistics for "individuals ages 25-55" are for individuals ages 25-55 in wave 1 of each panel, regardless of disability, SSDI, or at-risk group status. Statistics for SSDI applicants were compared to individuals ages 25-55; statistics for at-risk groups were compared to SSDI applicants. T-tests used for all statistical comparisons.

* p<0.05
** p<0.01

Among the at-risk groups (Table IV.3), the private disability insurance group had the highest proportion of individuals who turned to SSDI for support. More than one-fifth (22 percent) of those receiving private disability insurance applied to SSDI during the observation period. Workers with disabilities who were at risk of obtaining unemployment insurance benefits (15 percent), workers compensation beneficiaries (14 percent), and those who received unemployment insurance benefits (13 percent) had the next-highest proportions of SSDI applicants. Individuals with high health expenditures had the lowest rates of SSDI application across our at-risk groups; 6 percent of such individuals eventually applied for benefits. This proportion, however, is twice that which is observed in the general population of adults who are ages 25-55 (3 percent of whomapplied for SSDI benefits).

Even though a group had a high proportion of individuals who applied for SSDI, the relative number of them compared to all SSDI applicants might be small. For instance, although 22 percent of individuals with private disability insurance benefits applied to SSDI, no more than 8 percent of SSDI applicants (as will be seen in the next section) had such benefits (either employer-based disability or one's own sickness or accident insurance) at the time of their application.

2. Experiences of SSDI applicants before application.

SSDI applicants experienced a consistent decline in employment and income--and an increase in the likelihood of being out of the labor market entirely--as early as more than two years before SSDI application. In Figure IV.1, we show two statistics: (1) the proportion of SSDI applicants who were employed; and (2) the proportion who were without a job and not looking for work. Both statistics are calculated when reported for at least one month in the six-month intervals before SSDI application, and so are not mutually exclusive; data are shown in Appendix D, Table D.1. From 37 months to 42 months before they applied, 89 percent of applicants worked (compared to 84 percent of the general population ages 25-55 in the first SIPP wave), and 18 percent were without a job and not looking for work at any point during the six-month period (compared to 17 percent of the general population). As individuals approached SSDI application, the proportion employed declined substantially--to 66 percent in the six-month period before SSDI application--and more than half of applicants (54 percent) had at least one month in which they were neither working nor looking for a job. This pattern shows that, for many SSDI applicants, the attachment to the labor market was strong up to three years before SSDI application. In Appendix D, Table D.1, we include three measures of mean income of SSDI applicants at six-month intervals before benefit application, as well as a measure of poverty (the proportion with household incomes below the FPL). At 37-42 months before SSDI application, the mean monthly individual earned income, earned income of those with earnings, individual total income, and household total income of SSDI applicants were $1,887, $2,364, $2,068, and $3,923, respectively; 24 percent of SSDI applicants were below FPL. (The respective numbers for the general working-age population were $2,727, $3,399, $2,892, and $5,783, and 13.4 percent). In the six months before SSDI application, the mean individual monthly earned income of SSDI applicants fell to $944 (though of those with earnings, this value declined only to $1,941), the mean monthly household total income fell to $3,359, and the proportion living below FPL increased to 40 percent. These patterns are consistent with the previously noted decreasing labor-market connection among SSDI applicants. Additionally, mean individual income fell by less than the mean individual earned income of SSDI applicants. This suggests that future SSDI applicants partially offset their declining earnings by making use of programs that provide financial-support.

FIGURE IV.1. Labor Force Participation of SSDI Applicants
FIGURE IV.1, Line Chart: Shows two statistics: the proportion of SSDI applicants who were employed and the proportion who were without jobs and not looking for work from 1 to 42 months (in 6-month intervals) before SSDI application. Both statistics are calculated when reported for at least 1 month during 6-month intervals before SSDI application, and so are not mutually exclusive. At 37-42 months before their application, 89% of applicants worked and 18% were without jobs and were not looking for work at any point during the period. The proportion of applicants who were employed declined over time, to about two-thirds (66%) in the 6-month period before application. Similarly, the proportion of applicants not working and not looking for work increased over time, to more than half of applicants (54%).

When we examine program participation before SSDI application, we discover a larger proportion of SSDI applicants who received means-tested benefits up to 36 months before applying for SSDI, compared to the individuals ages 25-55 (Table IV.4). Between 10 percent and 21 percent of eventual SSDI applicants received benefits from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) during the 42 months before SSDI application, 4-8 percent received energy assistance, and 2-3 percent received housing assistance. Benefit receipt tended to increase in the six-month period before SSDI application, and the proportion of SSDI applicants receiving such benefits was typically greater than for the working-age population across the 42-month period before SSDI application. Among disability-related benefits, the proportion of SSDI applicants who received SSI was less than 1 percent and no different than for the working-age population. A relatively small proportion of SSDI applicants was involved in other programs related to disability or health (their own or employer-based disability coverage or workers' compensation) in the 42-month period leading up to SSDI application, though--as with poverty-related benefits--the proportion tended to increase in the six months just before application. Regarding health insurance coverage, a majority of individuals (from 67 percent to 73 percent) had private health insurance before SSDI application, even in the period just before SSDI application, although that percentage declined as individuals approached SSDI application. Between 11 percent and 20 percent of applicants reported having Medicaid coverage. Relatively few individuals who entered the SSDI program received unemployment or veterans' benefits up to 42 months before SSDI application; participation in these programs was stable across the observed periods.

TABLE IV.4. Program Participation of SSDI Applicants
    37-42 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  31-36 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  25-30 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  19-24 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  13-18 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  7-12 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
  1-6 Months  
Before SSDI
Application
All
  Individuals  
Ages 25-55
Poverty-Related Benefits
   SNAP 10.2%* 12.6%* 10.7%** 12.4%* 13.2%* 15.2% 21.1% 4.0%**
   Energy assistance 4.1% 5.6% 5.1% 5.7% 5.2% 5.4% 7.6% 2.1%**
   Subsidized housing 2.8% 3.4% 2.7% 2.3% 1.7% 2.2% 2.8% 1.2%
   TANF 3.7% 2.9% 2.6% 2.2% 2.9% 3.6% 4.7% 1.2%*
Disability-Related Benefits
   SSI 0.5% 0.3% 0.5% 0.5% 0.7% 0.9% 1.0% 1.1%
   Employer-based disability insurance 0.0%** 0.0%** 0.7%** 0.8%** 1.1%** 2.7% 6.5% 0.2%**
   Own sickness or accident insurance 0.0%* 0.3% 0.2%* 0.4% 0.4% 1.2% 2.1% 0.0%*
   Workers' compensation 4.1% 3.9%* 1.7%** 2.6%** 4.4%* 5.6% 9.3% 0.4%**
Health Insurance
   Medicaid 10.6%* 11.9%* 12.1%* 11.8%* 13.8% 15.9% 20.4% 6.1%**
   Private health insurance 72.9% 72.0% 70.3% 71.1% 67.5% 67.4% 66.7% 77.9%**
Employment-Related Benefits
   Unemployment benefits 7.5% 5.7% 6.4% 7.2% 5.4% 5.9% 7.5% 2.4%**
   Veterans' benefits 1.7% 1.9% 3.4% 3.6% 3.7% 3.3% 3.2% 0.7%*
Unweighted Sample Size 204 376 626 856 1,045 1,202 1,335 127,972
Weighted Sample Size (average per panel) 173,487 322,895 556,766 762,919 939,560 1,094,278 1,219,322 121,410,365
SOURCE: 1996, 2001, and 2004 SIPP panels matched to SSA administrative data.
NOTES: Participation of SSDI applicants in 6-month intervals before they applied for benefits is shown in the table. The statistics for "individuals ages 25-55" are for individuals ages 25-55 in wave 1 of each panel, regardless of disability, SSDI Application, or at-risk group status. The table includes 2 types of comparisons using t-test statistics: (1) each 6-month period was compared to 1-6 Months Before SSDI Application; and (2) the period of 1-6 Months Before SSDI Application was compared to individuals ages 25-55.

* p<0.05
** p<0.01

3. Experiences of individuals in the at-risk groups.

Six of the seven at-risk groups had sufficient sample sizes of SSDI applicants to make comparisons; individuals with unemployment benefits were excluded from the analyses. Although at-risk group members who eventually applied for SSDI tended to have lower rates of employment (and higher rates of being out of the labor market), the differences tended not to be statistically significant, though the patterns across at-risk groups were often similar (Table IV.5). Individuals in the high health expenditure, training, veterans with disabilities, and workers' compensation groups who eventually applied for SSDI had similar employment rates during the earliest six months of the observation period (that is, directly after being identified in the at-risk group). Alternatively, individuals receiving private disability insurance who applied for SSDI at first had employment rates that were larger than those who did not apply; the proportions reversed, however, by the 13-18 month observation period. No matter the starting point, the differences in employment rates for all groups between eventual SSDI applicants and non-applicants increased over time. For instance, the difference in the employment rates for veterans with disabilities who did and did not apply was 6 percentage points in the first six-month period; that difference increased to 16 percentage points by 31-36 months. This pattern is because the employment rates of those who did not apply to SSDI remained fairly constant while the employment rates of those who did apply to SSDI declined.

In Table IV.6, we show the relative timing of SSDI application for individuals in each at-risk group. About half or more of individuals who received private disability insurance or workers' compensation benefits applied to SSDI within the first six months of receiving the benefit, whereas individuals in the other at-risk groups were more evenly distributed across the six-year period for which we observed SSDI applications. Because we examined SSDI application in a six-year period from the date of the first SIPP interview, data for most groups are right censored; individuals could have been identified as being in an at-risk group after the beginning of the first SIPP wave (for instance, those whose first receipt of private disability insurance occurred in year 2 of the SIPP) and therefore did not have a full six years of observation.

TABLE IV.5. Employment of SSDI Applicants and Non-Applicants, by At-Risk Group
At-Risk Group 1-6
  Months  
7-12
  Months  
13-18
  Months  
19-24
  Months  
25-30
  Months  
31-36
  Months  
Eventually Applied for SSDI Benefits
High health expenditures 77.0% 71.1% 61.8%* 54.5%** 58.2%* 55.8%*
Private disability insurance 72.4% 54.6% 41.7% ND ND ND
Job training 83.8% 78.1% 74.3% 69.4% 62.5% 61.3%
At risk of unemployment insurance 100.0% 91.6% 81.9% 78.8% 74.1% ND
Veterans 58.3% 55.1% 50.2% 52.5% 44.8% 55.0%
Workers' compensation 59.9% 51.8% 44.8% 46.3% ND ND
Did Not Apply for SSDI Benefits
High health expenditures 81.2% 82.4% 81.1% 82.4% 82.1% 82.3%
Private disability insurance 62.4% 61.7% 63.2% 64.4% 63.9% 68.4%
Job training 89.4% 89.2% 89.1% 87.5% 88.9% 87.2%
At risk of unemployment insurance 100.0% 95.3% 90.4% 91.5% 87.9% 87.3%
Veterans 64.6% 66.1% 66.0% 67.6% 66.4% 70.8%
Workers' compensation 63.3% 64.1% 64.9% 68.3% 67.5% 63.8%
SOURCE: 1996, 2001, and 2004 SIPP panels matched to SSA administrative data.
NOTES: Employment characteristics of at-risk group members in 6-month intervals after they were identified in the at-risk group are shown in the table. Sample sizes are in Appendix Table D.2.

ND = no data (sample size fewer than 50).
* p<0.05
** p<0.01

TABLE IV.6. Timing of SSDI Application for All SSDI Applicants and At-Risk Groups of SSDI Applicants
Group N   Year 1     Year 2     Year 3     Year 4     Year 5     Year 6  
All SSDI applicants   3,754   16% 17% 16% 16% 16% 19%
High health expenditures 275 25% 19% 18% 16% 22% 0%
Private disability insurance 186 66% 15% 6% 9% 4% 0%
Job training 125 23% 12% 21% 18% 16% 9%
Unemployment insurance 78 38% 17% 19% 13% 14% a
At risk of unemployment insurance 108 23% 13% 17% 13% 18% 16%
Veterans 166 26% 18% 19% 11% 13% 13%
Workers' compensation 172 50% 22% 17% 11% a a
SOURCE: 1996, 2001, and 2004 SIPP panels matched to SSA administrative data.
NOTES: Table shows the year, relative to being identified as a group member, in which individuals applied to SSDI. For SSDI applicants, the year is relative to the SIPP start date.
  1. Data not available due to SSA cell size suppression to limit disclosure.

TABLE IV.7. Selected Program Participation and Incomes of SSDI Applicants and Non-Applicants, by At-Risk Group
Program or Income
Variable/ Period
High Health Expenditures Private Disability Insurance Job Training Workers At Risk
of Unemployment Insurance
Veterans Workers' Compensation
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
SSDI
  Applicants  
Non-
  Applicants  
Sample Size
1-6 months 243 3,882 144 518 112 1,091 108 602 158 942 139 863
7-12 months 226 3,717 107 355 108 1,043 105 592 141 816 110 597
13-18 months   177 2,945 87 287 105 974 106 593 136 793 96 503
19-24 months 132 2,429 ND 167 79 783 105 589 118 697 52 301
25-30 months 100 1,512 ND 105 50 465 80 457 103 582 ND 238
31-36 months 98 1,482 ND 52 52 459 ND 232 55 187 ND 136
SNAP
1-6 months 15.7% 5.1% 9.3% 9.2% 17.3% 7.8% 21.4% 8.9% 14.7% 9.8% 15.8% 9.1%
7-12 months 18.7% 4.8% 8.8% 10.7% 15.9% 7.3% 25.2% 9.4% 16.5% 9.7% 12.9% 9.6%
13-18 months 22.0% 4.8% 10.3% 9.1% 16.3% 7.2% 17.5% 8.3% 15.9% 7.5% 10.6% 8.6%
19-24 months 22.3% 4.3% ND 11.4% 20.5% 6.8% 18.7% 10.8% 15.4% 7.9% 13.3% 10.3%
25-30 months 15.1% 3.6% ND 11.1% 15.3% 5.8% 18.1% 10.0% 16.1% 7.9% ND 9.1%
31-36 months 15.7% 3.8% ND 10.2% 21.9% 6.1% ND 7.6% 13.5% 7.7% ND 9.1%
TANF
1-6 months 2.3% 0.7% 3.9% 1.4% 9.4% 2.8% 3.4% 1.8% 2.1% 1.0% 0.0% 1.9%
7-12 months 3.0% 0.6% 3.7% 1.5% 8.7% 2.5% 6.6% 1.5% 3.8% 0.9% 1.3% 1.9%
13-18 months 5.3% 0.5% 6.8% 1.4% 5.8% 1.9% 10.1% 1.3% 3.6% 0.7% 3.1% 1.5%
19-24 months 3.7% 0.5% ND 1.8% 3.1% 1.7% 7.9% 2.1% 1.7% 0.8% 4.3% 1.6%
25-30 months 0.7% 0.4% ND 3.4% 4.3% 1.4% 3.9% 1.5% 1.4% 0.4% ND 1.3%
31-36 months 0.8% 0.4% ND 2.4% 6.1% 1.4% ND 1.1% 0.0% 0.0% ND 0.5%
SSI Benefits
1-6 months 0.5% 1.3% 0.0% 6.3% 0.9% 3.8% 1.9% 2.0% 0.9% 3.3% 1.4% 5.1%
7-12 months 3.1% 1.5% 1.1% 7.0% 2.5% 3.9% 1.9% 2.5% 2.3% 3.8% 1.8% 7.1%
13-18 months 5.2% 1.9% 1.0% 5.9% 1.4% 4.2% 2.2% 2.7% 1.5% 4.0% 1.9% 7.0%
19-24 months 5.1% 2.0% ND 7.9% 2.7% 4.8% 2.5% 2.7% 1.0% 4.5% 1.9% 9.5%
25-30 months 6.8% 2.6% ND 8.6% 8.8% 6.1% 3.4% 3.7% 5.1% 5.6% ND 8.2%
31-36 months 4.2% 2.5% ND 13.8% 12.1% 6.5% ND 5.4% 10.3% 12.9% ND 8.4%
Employer-Based Disability Insurance
1-6 months 3.4% 0.3% 72.7% 72.0% 3.6% 0.8% 4.3% 2.0% 4.9% 1.6% 2.5% 3.5%
7-12 months 4.4% 0.3% 35.2% 28.0% 1.9% 1.0% 4.1% 1.5% 5.2% 2.1% 4.6% 2.6%
13-18 months 3.6% 0.4% 23.0% 16.7% 3.3% 1.0% 3.3% 0.6% 6.0% 2.4% 6.0% 2.1%
19-24 months 3.7% 0.5% ND 14.2% 5.9% 1.1% 4.4% 1.2% 5.9% 2.6% 9.3% 4.4%
25-30 months 5.6% 0.5% ND 16.4% 8.4% 0.6% 1.4% 1.6% 5.6% 2.8% ND 2.2%
31-36 months 1.7% 0.4% ND 15.4% 10.3% 0.4% ND 1.0% 9.7% 4.3% ND 1.3%
Workers' Compensation
1-6 months 2.8% 1.1% 6.7% 10.3% 7.0% 4.2% 2.5% 4.0% 10.5% 4.9% 90.8% 89.8%
7-12 months 3.7% 1.0% 6.1% 8.8% 7.7% 3.6% 4.3% 3.3% 11.9% 5.3% 66.3% 39.8%
13-18 months 4.8% 0.8% 9.0% 6.8% 6.2% 3.2% 2.2% 2.6% 11.3% 3.6% 47.3% 22.6%
19-24 months 3.5% 0.6% ND 6.0% 6.5% 2.3% 3.1% 2.5% 14.0% 3.6% 41.8% 18.1%
25-30 months 3.7% 0.8% ND 4.7% 6.3% 2.5% 2.2% 1.1% 10.8% 3.0% ND 13.3%
31-36 months 3.9% 0.9% ND 3.8% 4.8% 2.6% ND 1.3% 6.9% 3.4% ND 6.5%
Medicaid
1-6 months 12.2% 6.9% 14.9% 18.3% 18.2% 11.9% 16.5% 15.0% 12.9% 14.4% 17.0% 17.7%
7-12 months 19.6% 6.9% 14.9% 20.1% 17.4% 12.0% 26.1% 15.0% 16.8% 14.7% 16.9% 20.6%
13-18 months 27.3% 6.8% 19.1% 19.5% 20.3% 10.6% 29.5% 13.9% 15.2% 13.5% 22.6% 19.9%
19-24 months 30.3% 6.5% ND 19.4% 24.0% 10.7% 28.8% 15.7% 16.4% 14.3% 26.6% 19.3%
25-30 months 32.5% 5.7% ND 17.5% 21.3% 11.0% 26.8% 14.4% 12.6% 14.1% ND 12.5%
31-36 months 28.5% 5.2% ND 19.6% 27.4% 11.5% ND 15.1% 23.9% 15.6% ND 13.9%
Private Health Insurance
1-6 months 68.9% 81.1% 89.4% 79.3% 74.1% 81.6% 62.2% 68.2% 69.3% 71.8% 67.8% 69.7%
7-12 months 62.0% 80.4% 87.5% 77.9% 71.9% 82.3% 59.5% 69.4% 70.5% 74.8% 70.9% 69.1%
13-18 months 58.8% 80.4% 79.2% 79.2% 73.3% 82.2% 63.1% 65.8% 71.4% 73.2% 71.6% 66.7%
19-24 months 60.1% 81.1% ND 80.4% 65.8% 82.4% 67.4% 68.4% 72.5% 76.7% 68.2% 70.7%
25-30 months 65.6% 79.2% ND 71.4% 70.4% 82.4% 58.7% 68.6% 66.2% 74.8% ND 71.1%
31-36 months 57.6% 80.4% ND 72.8% 71.0% 83.1% ND 70.5% 67.2% 80.7% ND 65.6%
Household Income
1-6 months $2,636 $3,598 $4,854 $4,901 $4,241 $5,117 $3,078 $3,870 $3,408 $4,187 $3,672 $4,784
7-12 months $2,623 $3,889 $4,577 $4,653 $4,204 $5,092 $2,960 $3,825 $3,433 $4,276 $3,760 $4,425
13-18 months $2,673 $3,941 $4,165 $4,655 $4,286 $5,353 $3,029 $3,742 $3,223 $4,248 $3,673 $4,506
19-24 months $2,794 $4,149 ND $5,087 $4,346 $5,271 $3,037 $3,862 $3,570 $4,189 $3,533 $4,771
25-30 months $2,767 $3,893 ND $5,548 $3,575 $5,391 $3,002 $3,888 $3,304 $4,129 ND $4,903
31-36 months $2,668 $3,997 ND $4,994 $3,702 $5,474 ND $3,660 $3,273 $4,565 ND $4,554
Individual Earnings
1-6 months $1,192 $1,792 $1,187 $1,276 $1,637 $2,469 $1,337 $1,636 $1,101 $1,617 $656 $1,341
7-12 months $1,003 $1,966 $1,037 $1,542 $1,549 $2,456 $1,150 $1,575 $964 $1,668 $640 $1,451
13-18 months $921 $1,968 $948 $1,612 $1,390 $2,567 $1,223 $1,531 $905 $1,672 $580 $1,666
19-24 months $956 $2,099 ND $2,010 $1,196 $2,481 $1,176 $1,560 $945 $1,675 $767 $1,889
25-30 months $963 $1,952 ND $2,392 $1,147 $2,536 $1,117 $1,589 $714 $1,630 ND $1,803
31-36 months $939 $2,004 ND $1,674 $870 $2,599 ND $1,473 $772 $1,845 ND $1,599
Individual Earnings of Those with Earnings
1-6 months $2,474 $1,903 $2,624 $2,690 $2,154 $2,894 $1,551 $1,779 $2,119 $2,755 $1,791 $2,759
7-12 months $2,644 $1,769 ND $2,945 $2,348 $2,930 $1,481 $1,819 $2,120 $2,760 $2,373 $2,682
13-18 months $2,659 $1,801 ND $2,745 $2,113 $3,072 $1,590 $1,804 $2,042 $2,767 ND $2,966
19-24 months $2,775 $1,987 ND $3,245 $2,034 $3,009 $1,606 $1,879 $2,044 $2,720 ND $3,054
25-30 months $2,615 $2,059 ND $3,889 ND $3,029 $1,584 $1,985 ND $2,708 ND $2,923
31-36 months $2,680 $2,079 ND ND ND $3,130 ND $1,772 ND $2,948 ND $2,741
Individual Income
1-6 months $1,476 $2,015 $2,788 $2,367 $1,968 $2,759 $1,499 $1,807 $1,751 $2,224 $1,627 $2,314
7-12 months $1,315 $2,192 $2,173 $2,243 $1,932 $2,754 $1,377 $1,810 $1,695 $2,241 $1,620 $2,030
13-18 months $1,321 $2,197 $1,721 $2,264 $1,862 $2,868 $1,492 $1,790 $1,653 $2,302 $1,460 $2,145
19-24 months $1,352 $2,348 ND $2,704 $1,711 $2,792 $1,520 $1,846 $1,777 $2,334 $1,434 $2,399
25-30 months $1,429 $2,184 ND $3,155 $1,664 $2,887 $1,492 $1,838 $1,659 $2,303 ND $2,252
31-36 months $1,470 $2,212 ND $2,252 $1,548 $2,981 ND $1,722 $1,592 $2,391 ND $2,033
SOURCE: 1996, 2001, and 2004 SIPP panels matched to SSA administrative data.
NOTES: Table is illustrative of program participation and incomes of at-risk group members in 6-month intervals after they were identified in the at-risk group. Bold type indicates values of SSDI applicants and non-applicants that are significantly different at p<0.05.

ND = no data (sample size fewer than 50).

We show participation in selected programs and incomes in Table IV.7. While individuals who eventually applied for SSDI tended to have higher rates of program participation than those who did not, as expected, these differences were often not significantly different, which in part is due to the small sample sizes for each group. The consistency in the patterns observed across at-risk groups, though, is important. Individuals who later applied for SSDI benefits in all groups except for private disability insurance and workers' compensation generally had higher levels of SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits. SSDI applicants with high health expenditures or who were veterans with disabilities initially had higher levels of employer-based disability benefits and workers' compensation. SSDI applicants in the high health expenditure group had consistently higher levels of Medicaid and lower levels of private health coverage than those who were not. Among workers' compensation group members, SSDI applicants generally had higher rates of workers' compensation benefit receipt over time, suggesting that these individuals had more severe or long-lasting conditions that qualified them for workers' compensation benefits; we did not observe a similar pattern for private disability insurance members regarding employer-based or individual disability benefits. SSDI applicants typically had lower earned incomes than non-applicants, and income fell over time, while income of non-applicants remained stable or increased. Regarding individual and household income measures, non-applicants had stable or increasing incomes, whereas SSDI applicants had stable or decreasing incomes; these patterns were not consistent, however, and varied across groups.

4. Conclusion

In this chapter, we examined the employment and program-participation paths of individuals with disabilities who did and did not apply for SSDI. The patterns help us understand the characteristics of those at greater risk of SSDI entry compared to those who do not enter SSDI, most of whom continued working. This can help craft policies that simultaneously divert those with disabilities from applying for SSDI while providing the support necessary to make work feasible for those with disabilities.

As expected, we observed a decline in employment and earned income of SSDI applicants before applying for benefits, with the biggest change observed in the six months immediately preceding SSDI application. However, somewhat surprisingly, a large share of these individuals (more than two-thirds) was employed at some point during this period; similarly (and somewhat related), most SSDI applicants had private health insurance coverage. A larger proportion of eventual SSDI applicants received poverty-related benefits up to 42 months before applying for SSDI than individuals in the general population, and participation in these benefits programs showed an increase during the six months immediately before SSDI application.

Among individuals in at-risk groups, those with private disability insurance had the highest rates of applying for SSDI. At-risk group members who applied for SSDI were more likely to participate in various programs than at-risk group members who did not apply for SSDI, though the patterns varied by the at-risk group.

This analysis uncovers key patterns for SSDI applicants and non-applicants, but two important caveats bear mentioning. First, sample sizes are quite small for a few of the programs included in our study, so drawing conclusions regarding the pathways from these programs to SSDI application is limited. Second, data regarding disability status is not available during each SIPP wave, which makes it difficult to determine the disability status of individuals participating in certain programs.

Future research should further investigate the various paths to SSDI application and receipt. One area could focus on individuals with specific disabilities to gain a more nuanced understanding of the factors that lead to SSDI application and continued participation in the labor market. Additionally, uncovering the eventual SSDI application decisions of those with disabilities who participate in VR and RTW initiatives would be instructive.

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