Research & Analysis by Joseph Mastrianni
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.