Children Receiving SSI, 2005

Summary and Introduction

In this report, children are defined as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients under age 18. All average SSI payment amounts are based on the amount received in the month of the report, rather than on the amount due in the following month.

In December 2005, more than 1,036,000 blind and disabled children were receiving SSI payments. They made up 14.6 percent of the over 7 million SSI recipients. The data reflect an increase of over 43,000 child recipients since December 2004.

To be eligible for SSI payments as a child, an individual must be under age 18 and unmarried and must meet the applicable SSI income, resource, and diagnostic criteria.

The tables present a "snapshot" of selected program and demographic characteristics of children who receive SSI payments. Table 1 is based on 100 percent data. Tables 2–16 are based on 10 percent sample files. The source record for all of the files is the Supplemental Security Record (SSR).

Applications and Awards

In calendar year 2005, the most recent year for which complete data are available, the Social Security Administration (SSA) received almost 460,000 SSI applications for children. This represents 18 percent of the more than 2.5 million SSI applications received during that period.

Nearly 177,000 children were awarded SSI payments in calendar year 2005. This was almost 21 percent of the 846,000 persons awarded SSI in that period.

Historically, the percentages of both applications and awards for children have gradually increased. Both rates rose rapidly in the early to mid-1990s, after the Zebley v. Sullivan decision. They dropped off somewhat after welfare reform legislation was enacted in 1996. The number of applications for children has continued to increase since then, but their percentage share of all applications has gradually decreased. Both the number and percentage of awards for children have increased since welfare reform, with the exception of a slight decrease in their percentage of all applications in 2004 and 2005.


The average SSI payment to children in December 2005 was $518. This amount includes federally administered state supplementation, where applicable, but does not include any retroactive payments.

The states with the largest numbers of children receiving SSI were California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, and Michigan. Together they accounted for 54 percent of all child recipients.

Sixty-four percent of the children received an SSI payment of $579 in December—the maximum monthly amount of federal SSI payable in 2005 to persons with no countable income.

Demographic Characteristics


In December 2005, 15 percent of the children receiving SSI were younger than 5 years old. The remaining 85 percent were fairly evenly distributed by age.


Child recipients are more likely to be boys than girls, by about three to two. This is generally the same gender pattern found among adult disabled recipients.

Living Arrangements

Eighty-two percent of the children lived with their parent(s). Of those with other living arrangements, 13 percent were identified as living in their own household for purposes of determining payments. For the most part, these children lived with other relatives; in hospitals, nursing homes, residential schools, and foster care; or independently. Less than 2 percent were patients in a medical facility where more than half of the cost of their care is covered by the Medicaid program.


Nearly all (99 percent) of the children were U.S. citizens, either by birth or naturalization.


More than 66 percent were disabled because of a mental disorder, and the largest proportion of this group (20 percent) were mentally retarded. The only other sizable diagnostic category was diseases of the nervous system and sense organs (9 percent), which included all of the more than 6,900 blind children on SSI in December 2005.

The incidence of mental retardation as a primary diagnosis increased with age, from 3 percent of those under age 3 to 31 percent of those aged 13–17. A similar pattern appeared among those under age 18 with other mental disorders.

The only diagnostic categories with a significant difference between sexes were other mental disorders (52 percent of the males versus 35 percent of the females) and nervous systems and sense organs (11 percent of the females versus 8 percent of the males). There was no substantial variation between sexes in the other diagnostic categories.

Adult Recipients Who First Became Eligible for SSI as Children

In addition to the more than 1,036,000 recipients who are currently considered as children for program purposes, the SSI rolls in December 2005 included almost 681,000 adult recipients who first became eligible for SSI payments before age 18. Twenty-two percent of these recipients first became eligible during the 1974–1980 period and thus have been receiving SSI for much of their lives.


About 28 percent had income in December 2005, and most of them had only unearned income. The most frequent types of cash unearned income were Social Security benefits (7 percent) or support payments from an absent parent (13 percent). Another 1 percent were receiving income based on need (most commonly from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, formerly known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, or AFDC), and 8 percent had some type of in-kind income that was considered for SSI purposes. About 72 percent of the children had no income reported on their record.

Parents in the Household

Almost two-thirds of the children (66 percent) were living with one parent, and 22 percent lived with two parents. Deeming of income from the parent(s) to the child recipient applies to these children. For the 12 percent with no parent in the household, parent-to-child deeming does not apply, and information about parents is not part of the SSI record.

One-Parent Household

Of the 66 percent of SSI recipient children who lived with only one parent, nearly all (95 percent) lived with their mother. Only 5 percent lived with their father.

For 45 percent of the children in a one-parent household, that parent had no reported income (the SSI payment is not considered as income in this analysis). Over one-third of the children (35 percent) lived with a parent who had earned income, and 24 percent lived with a parent who had unearned income. Mother-headed households showed about the same distribution, but father-headed homes were more likely to have earnings.

Even in households with income, the amounts were small. Twenty percent of the children were in homes with income under $200 in December 2005. Only 62 percent of them had income of $600 or more in that month. Children living with a father were more likely to have higher family income.

Two-Parent Household

The 22 percent of SSI children who lived with two parents were relatively better off economically than those living with only one parent. Eighteen percent of the former had parents with no reported income, compared with 45 percent of those living with one parent. Also, for 61 percent of children in two-parent households, the parents had income of $1,000 per month or more, compared with 23 percent of children in one-parent households.

Mothers in two-parent households were less likely to have income than were single mothers. Sixty-four percent of mothers in two-parent households had no income, compared with 46 percent of single mothers.

Parental Income

Over half of all SSI children (54 percent) lived in a household where the parent(s) received some type of income, which averaged $1,183 in December. About 37 percent of the children had one or both parents with earnings, averaging $1,499; 21 percent had some type of unearned income, averaging $367. The most common type of unearned income was public income- maintenance payments. Such payments include TANF payments, Department of Veterans Affairs payments based on need, and payments from other government programs.

Parent-to-Child Deeming

In households where the parent(s) of SSI children receive income, that income must be considered in determining the child's payment amount. This process is called deeming. Certain types of parental income are excluded from deeming (see 20 CFR 416.1161(a)). This includes public income-maintenance payments and any parental income used to determine the amount of those payments. In addition, allocations and exclusions reduce the amount used in the child's payment computation.

About 62 percent of the children subject to deeming had one or more parents with reported income in December. After all exclusions and allocations were applied, deemed income affected the payment of only 27 percent of these children. Children living with two parents (33 percent) were more likely to have their payment affected by deemed income than were children living with one parent (24 percent).