The 23rd Annual Meeting of the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium
The Social Security Administration (SSA) convened its 2021 Retirement and Disability Research Consortium (RDRC) Meeting virtually on August 5–6th. The meeting was organized around thematic panels and featured research funded through the NBER RDRC as well as through other RDRC centers based at Boston College, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin.
A number of researchers with various affiliations with the NBER or the NBER RDRC presented research findings:
In Panel 1: Understanding the Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Retirement and Disability, Emilie Jackson presented The Impact of COVID-19 on Older Workers’ Employment and Social Security Spillovers (NBER Working Paper 29083), coauthored with NBER Research Associate Gopi Shah Goda, Lauren Hersch Nicholas, and Sarah Stith. A non-technical summary of the authors’ research can be found here.
In Panel 2: Disability Programs and Well-being, NBER Research Associate Marianne Bitler presented Cash versus Food? How Does Food Stamp Eligibility Affect the Family Security of SSI Recipients? coauthored with Amelia Hawkins, NBER Research Associate Lucie Schmidt, and Hilary Seligman. The researchers analyze the effects of making Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients ineligible for food stamps and providing a cash- out SSI payment on food stamp participation, food security and economic well-being. The researchers find that states’ initial cash-out status significantly affected food stamp participation at the start of SSI, and SSI recipients in cash-out states were less food secure than recipients in non-cash-out states.
In Panel 3: Retirement Planning and Preparedness, Taha Choukhmane presented Individual-level versus Household-level Responses to Incentives in US Retirement Savings Plans, coauthored with Lucas Goodman and NBER Faculty Research Fellow Cormac O’Dea. The researchers investigate whether married couples coordinate their financial decisions or make their choices independently of each other by analyzing the retirement-savings decisions of individuals in couples. They find that a quarter of couples could have achieved the same retirement wealth while saving less simply by reallocating existing contributions to the account of the spouse with the higher marginal matching incentive and that the mean lost savings associated with this coordination failure is 14 percent of the employee retirement contributions made by the household.
Also in Panel 3, NBER Research Associate Michael Hurd presented Measuring Economic Preparation for Retirement: Income versus Consumption, coauthored with Susann Rohwedder. The researchers estimate several measures of the income replacement rate and compare them to a consumption-based measure of economic preparation that considers the ultimate consequences for the retirement-to-death consumption path. They find little association between the income replacement rate and the consumption-based measure. They conclude that an individual with a low-income replacement rate may be similarly well-prepared for retirement as an individual with a high-income replacement rate.
In Panel 5: Disability Applications and Outcomes, NBER Research Associate David Neumark presented Workplace Injuries and Receipt of Benefits from Workers' Compensation and SSDI, coauthored with Daniel Ladd. The researchers investigate whether workers who suffer permanently disabling injuries covered by Workers' Compensation (WC) subsequently end up on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and whether, when workers are eligible for benefits under both programs, SSDI benefits appear to be appropriately reduced, or “offset,” to prevent people eligible for both programs from receiving benefits exceeding a given threshold relative to prior earnings. They find that SSA has fairly complete information on WC benefit receipt and that two-thirds of joint SSDI and WC recipients have no offset because most workers drawing benefits from both programs have combined benefits below 80 percent of prior earnings.
Also in Panel 5, Bastian Ravesteijn presented Applying Aspects of Disability Determination Methods from the Netherlands in the US, coauthored with NBER Research Associate Nicole Maestas, Kathleen Mullen and Tisamarie Sherry. The researchers analyze how work capacity is measured in the Netherlands and then apply aspects of that method to a representative sample of Americans, fielding a survey on respondents’ functional abilities, educational attainment, and medical conditions. They find that while a large fraction of the sample is deemed able to perform more than two-thirds of occupations in their data, there is a non-trivial share with limited potential occupations. They find that limitations in pen grip, speaking, and reading lead to the largest absolute earnings declines, suggesting that these abilities are required to work in the highest paying jobs in the Netherlands.
In Panel 6: Health Shocks and Retirement, NBER Research Associate Frank R. Lichtenberg presented The Impact of Biopharmaceutical Innovation on Disability, Social Security Recipiency, and Use of Medical Care of US Community Residents, 1998-2015. The researcher estimates that the probability of disability, Social Security recipiency, and medical care utilization is inversely related to the number of drug classes previously launched. He also finds that the effect of biopharmaceutical innovation related to a medical condition on overall health depends on the number of other medical conditions a person has, with fewer conditions associated with a larger effect. The researcher estimates that new drug classes launched during 1988–2006 had by 2015 reduced the number of people who were unable to work by 3.9 percent, decreased the number of people who received SSI by 3.1 percent, and reduced the number of inpatient events by 5.7 percent.
The agenda and summaries of the conference papers are available.