Research & Analysis by Charles G. Scott
Despite many decades of data collection, SSA has problems presenting data on the race and ethnicity of program beneficiaries. By using several statistical techniques, however, it is possible to make better use of the data at hand.
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, established by the Social Security Amendments of 1972 (Public Law 92-603), was designed to provide cash assistance to needy aged, blind, and disabled citizens, and noncitizens lawfully admitted for permanent residence or permanently residing under color of law. Since then, this means-tested program has undergone many legislative changes that affect the eligibility status of noncitizens. This article, presented in three parts, discusses the legislative history of noncitizen eligibility, and details relevant laws enacted since the program's inception; provides current data on the trends and changes of the noncitizen population; and describes the larger population of foreign-born SSI recipients, of which the noncitizens are a part. Data on the number of SSI recipients born abroad but who had become citizens before applying for SSI payments were not previously available. Analytical data are from the Supplemental Security Record (SSR) matched to the Social Security Number Identification (Numident) file.
In 1995, about 1,017,100 persons receiving payments from the Supplemental Security Income program had their cases closed and their payments stopped. This figure represents 16 percent of all recipients paid during 1995. The most frequently cited reason for these case closures were excess income and death. Of those cases closed for reasons other than death, 41 percent eventually returned to payment status within 1 year. Based on work done with earlier cohorts, that figure can be expected to rise to nearly 50 percent after 4 years have elapsed.
The number of case closures in a given year is affected primarily by the size of the caseload and the number of reviews that these cases undergo. Despite some fluctuations in the numbers of these reviews over the last 8 years, the overall number of closures as a percent of caseload has remained fairly steady—in the 16- to 18-percent range.
This article updates one that appeared in the Bulletin in July 1990. It describes living arrangements of persons receiving payments under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program from October 1994 through September 1995. The data were taken from the Quality Assurance review conducted by the Social Security Administration (SSA). This procedure is used by SSA to determine the frequency and causes of incorrect determinations of eligibility and payment amounts.
It is difficult to describe the living arrangement for the "typical" recipient. Nevertheless, some interesting patterns emerge in an analysis of the data. About 59 percent (owners and renters combined) of the 6.3 million SSI recipients lived in their own households. Approximately 32 percent of them shared a living arrangement with someone else and about 5 percent of the recipients lived in an institution.
Of those SSI recipients living in households, about 36 percent lived alone. Less then 13 percent lived with only their spouses or with only their spouses and minor children. Approximately 11 percent of those in households were child recipients living with parents. An additional 15 percent of the SSI recipients lived in households with only other related adults (other than a spouse or parents).
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) statistics have been published in the Social Security Bulletin since the program began in 1974. For the most part, these statistics have been snapshots of current caseloads. Now, a new SSI longitudinal file permits a retrospective look at past program data. It also permits us to redefine key program indicators and to produce new distributions for these data. In this article, we take a look back in time at SSI applications, caseloads, and awards, and describe how these data were obtained from the SSI administrative computer files.
Trends in the Characteristics of DI and SSI Disability Awardees and Duration of Program Participation
We analyze the effects of trends in the age and diagnostic mix of new disability awardee cohorts from 1975 through 1993 on expected duration on the Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) rolls. The 1975-93 shift toward younger awardees is estimated to increase duration by 1.4 years for DI and for about 5 years for SSI. Much of the increase in SSI duration is attributable to the recent influx of childhood awardees. For working-age adults, the DI and SSI trends are comparable. We also estimate that about half of the 1975-93 increase in DI duration is explained by the increase in the proportion of younger DI-insured workers. During the 1993-2006 period, the effect of changes in the age mix of DI-insured workers will be reversed. This will moderate, but not eliminate, likely upward pressures on caseloads arising from the anticipated rise in incidence rates and the future effects of past increases in expected duration.
Labor-Force Participation and Earnings of SSI Disability Recipients: A Pooled Cross-Sectional Time Series Approach to the Behavior of Individuals
This article examines two important aspects of work behavior, labor-force participation, and earnings among persons who since 1976 have become entitled to SSI disability benefits and received payments for a full calendar year or longer during the intervening time period. A data set was developed containing the records of a random sample of all individuals who had ever received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability benefits and matched to earnings records maintained by the Social Security Administration (SSA). A multivariate analysis based on a pooled cross-sectional time series approach was employed using individual-level data to first estimate the probability of an SSI recipient performing work and then to estimate, among those who worked, the level of earnings. For this analysis, the SSI population was divided into three distinct groups based on their diagnosis: the nondevelopmentally disabled, the developmentally disabled (other than the mentally retarded), and the mentally retarded.
The analysis provides information about the impact that individual characteristics (such as age, education, diagnosis, and so forth) play in the decision to work and in determining the level of earnings. The analysis also addresses yearly variations in labor-force participation and earnings.
This note addresses concerns about the amounts of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments made to households where two or more recipients live together. Under current law these payments are not generally reduced. One of the concerns is that the SSI program may be providing income to households whose income exceeds an equitable standard, defined in terms of the poverty guidelines. This study measures the incidence of this happening by comparing unit incomes to the 1994 poverty guidelines.
In December 1993, about 3.8 million persons under age 65 received Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments because of a disability. More than half of these recipients had some form of mental disorder. In recent years, the number of disabled SSI recipients has climbed sharply. At the same time, there has been a change in the disability patterns among these recipients. The proportion of recipients with mental disorders, particularly those with psychiatric illness, is increasing steadily. Many of these recipients enter the SSI program in their youth and may stay in the program for many years. Similar increases and disability patterns in the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) program imply program related causes, including recent changes to the disability requirements and outreach efforts. These changing disability patterns have implications for the size and shape of future SSI caseloads.
This article analyzes duration on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability rolls prior to age 65 among children and working-age adults, based on a 10-year followup of 1974-82 cohorts of new awardees by utilizing monthly data from administrative records for 1974-92, and on statistical projections beyond the followup period. Although SSI means testing is responsible for a high proportion of early suspensions, when multiple spells are accounted for, long stays dominate. The estimated mean length of all first SSI spells is 5.5 years. It is 11.3 years for disabled children, 1.3 years for disabled adults eligible for both the Social Security Administration's Disability Insurance (DI) and SSI, and 6.4 years for adults eligible for SSI only. When multiple spells are accounted for, the projected mean total preretirement-age SSI disability stay almost doubles to 10.5 years for all awardees and increases to 26.7 years for children.