Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 2

(released August 2004)
by Teran Martin and Paul S. Davies

During the past 20 years, legislative and judicial actions have affected Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance beneficiaries. This article compares important changes in demographics, income sources and amounts, and poverty status of beneficiaries of both programs between 1984 and 1999, using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation matched to administrative data from the Social Security Administration. The average age of both groups has decreased, while their education levels increased. In 1999, Disability Insurance beneficiaries and their families relied less on Social Security, while their poverty rate remained fairly constant. The Supplemental Security Income population had a lower poverty rate, while beneficiaries were slightly more reliant on Social Security for personal income.

by Melissa Koenig and Kalman Rupp

This article provides new estimates of the prevalence of households with two or more unmarried recipients of SSI and analyzes the poverty status of three groups: individual recipients, married couple recipients, and two or more noncouple recipients living in the same household. It finds that outcomes are sensitive to assumptions regarding economies of scale for individual and married couple recipients. SSI program rules concerning the federal income guarantee for married couples versus individuals contributes to higher poverty rates among married couple recipients than among noncouple recipients living in the same household. The rate of poverty is highest among individual beneficiaries living alone. These findings are not sensitive to alternative ways to measure poverty.

by Chad Newcomb

Each month, over 3 million children receive benefits from Social Security, accounting for one of every seven Social Security beneficiaries. This article examines the demographic characteristics and economic status of these children using Social Security administrative records matched to the 1996 Survey of Income and Program Participation. Most child beneficiaries receive benefits based on the earnings of a deceased or disabled parent, and nearly two-thirds live in female-headed families. The families of child beneficiaries rely about equally on earnings and income from Social Security for economic support. On average, the family income of child beneficiaries was 25 percent lower than that of all children, but there was no statistically significant difference in the poverty rates of the two groups.

by Richard Balkus and Susan Wilschke

As a means-tested program, the Supplemental Security Income program considers a recipient's income from wages and other sources when determining eligibility and the monthly benefit amount. This study examines annual earnings for a sample of Supplemental Security Income recipients and, in the case of child recipients, their spouses and parents to evaluate the feasibility of using average annual wages in place of monthly wages when determining benefit amounts. The data show substantial variation in earnings from one year to the next. The results do not point to any clear distinctions in wage patterns among recipients or ineligible spouses and parents that would make any one group a better candidate for estimating and verifying wages on an annual basis.

by Leslie E. Papke

Understanding the role that 401(k) plan characteristics, such as investment choice, play in participation and employee contributions is important as more workers rely on this type of retirement plan and as proposals for Social Security solvency include individual savings plans. Using the 1992 Health and Retirement Study, this article investigates which individual and job characteristics are associated with asset choice in defined contribution plans. Investment choice is found to substantially increase contributions to such plans.

Introduction and Overview from—2004 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal OASDI Trust Funds

The full report is available at

Executive Summary from—Technical Panel on Assumptions and Methods (2003); Report to the Social Security Advisory Board

The full report is available at the Social Security Advisory Board web site.

by Dotty O'Brien, Joel Packman, and Carolyn Puckett