Research & Analysis by Todd Honeycutt
This article summarizes findings from selected research conducted under the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Disability Research Consortium (DRC) at the Mathematica Center for Studying Disability Policy. Mathematica researchers, often in collaboration with SSA and other research institutions, have conducted studies addressing five broad topic areas. Those topics are Social Security Disability Insurance applicants and their potential ability to remain in the labor force; factors affecting participation in the federal disability programs; the characteristics, well-being, and employment of disability program participants; special populations of people with disabilities; and access to health insurance for people with disabilities. The studies highlight how the DRC has supported a broad range of rigorous, policy-relevant research and made important contributions to the body of knowledge on those topics.
Using Survey of Income and Program Participation data linked to Social Security administrative files, the authors examine the preapplication employment patterns of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) applicants for periods of varying lengths up to 24 months before application. The employment histories of about half of the applicants are characterized by stable employment in well-paying jobs; most policy proposals related to workforce retention or DI diversion target this type of worker. The other half of the applicants have either intermittent or no work experience in the preapplication period. Proposals that focus on DI applicants with recent or long-term attachments to the workforce are therefore likely to miss this other half of eventual DI applicants. Future policy proposals should consider outreach to people who lack a strong labor force attachment and who might need a broader array of supports to remain in or return to the workforce.