The Social Security Disability Program and Labor Force Participation
35 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2001 Last revised: 30 Jul 2010
Date Written: August 1979
In the last twenty years the labor force participation rates of 45 to 54-year-old men have fallen 10.6 percentage points among non-whites and 4.4 percentage points among whites. I find that nearly half of this puzzling decline can be explained by the growth of the Social Security Disability program. By 1975, 6.22% of the prime-age non-white men and 3.57% of the white men were Social Security Disability beneficiaries. Despite the medical screening of applicants, I find in cross-section estimates an elasticity of .35 for beneficiary status with respect to benefit levels. As eligibility requirements have eased and as benefit levels have increased relative to earnings more men have dropped out of the labor force and become Social Security Disability beneficiaries.
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