Download Free Electronic Document

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.2 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is intended to replace lost income for people suffering from a disability that is likely to cause substantial long-term losses in earnings. A concern has been that SSDI may have a disincentive effect on the willingness of recipients to work — that is, that some SSDI beneficiaries would work if they did not receive benefits. This study examined SSDI applications between 2005 and 2006, focusing on a "natural experiment" that arises from the disability determination process itself: Some of the disability examiners who decide these cases are more stringent than others. This allowed the study team to compare work activity among similar applicants who were initially allowed or denied benefits only because their applications were randomly assigned to disability examiners with different propensities to allow benefits. The researchers found that those who have impairments that are on the margin of allowance for SSDI benefits are strongly discouraged from returning to work if they are awarded benefits. They also found that those who are relatively less impaired are substantially more likely to return to work if denied benefits, whereas beneficiaries with the most severe impairments would not be any more likely to work if they had not received SSDI.

This issue of Insight summarizes research conducted within the RAND Center for Disability Research.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation working paper brief series. RAND working paper briefs are short summaries of reviewed working papers that are aimed at a policy audience. Unless otherwise indicated, working paper briefs can be quoted and cited without permission of the author, provided the source is clearly referred to as a working paper briefs.

Permission is given to duplicate this electronic document for personal use only, as long as it is unaltered and complete. Copies may not be duplicated for commercial purposes. Unauthorized posting of RAND PDFs to a non-RAND Web site is prohibited. RAND PDFs are protected under copyright law. For information on reprint and linking permissions, please visit the RAND Permissions page.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.