The Effect of Disability Insurance Payments on Beneficiaries' Earnings

Alexander Gelber, Timothy Moore, Alexander Strand

NBER Working Paper No. 21851
Issued in January 2016
NBER Program(s):Aging, Health Care, Health Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics

A crucial issue in studying social insurance programs is whether they affect work decisions through income or substitution effects. We examine this in the context of U.S. Social Security Disability Insurance (DI), one of the largest social insurance programs in the U.S. The formula linking DI payments to past earnings has discontinuous changes in the marginal replacement rate that allow us to use a regression kink design to estimate the effect of payment size on earnings. Using Social Security Administration data on all new DI beneficiaries from 2001 to 2007, we document a robust income effect of DI payments on earnings. Our preferred estimate is that an increase in DI payments of one dollar causes an average decrease in beneficiaries’ earnings of twenty cents. This suggests that the income effect represents an important factor in driving DI-induced reductions in earnings.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w21851

Published: Alexander Gelber & Timothy J. Moore & Alexander Strand, 2017. "The Effect of Disability Insurance Payments on Beneficiaries' Earnings," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, vol 9(3), pages 229-261. citation courtesy of

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