The Supplemental Security Income (Ssi) Program

78 Pages Posted: 1 Jun 2015 Last revised: 6 Jun 2015

See all articles by Mark Duggan

Mark Duggan

Stanford University - Department of Economics

Melissa S. Kearney

University of Maryland - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Stephanie Rennane

University of Maryland

Date Written: May 2015

Abstract

The SSI program provides cash assistance to some of the nation’s most vulnerable elderly, blind, and disabled residents. In this paper, we briefly summarize the history of the SSI program and present descriptive evidence on caseload composition and trends. We discuss relevant conceptual issues and empirical evidence focused on four key issues. First, we describe the advantages and disadvantages of categorical eligibility requirements and we show that the SSI caseload has become increasingly comprised of difficult-to-verify conditions, namely pain and mental disabilities. Second, we describe systematic disincentives to accumulate earnings and assets inherent in the SSI program design, but emphasize that the more relevant set of questions for the SSI population are related to the full disability requirement for eligibility. Third, we describe the questions and research about long-term benefits and costs to program participants, in terms of whether the program adequately and appropriately serves the needs of disabled individuals and their family members. And fourth, we present information and evidence about program spillovers, both across programs and across federal and state levels of government. Throughout the paper we make numerous explicit references to areas where further study is warranted and open research questions remain. SSI is an important part of the U.S. safety net, but particular features of the program raise questions about whether there is a more effective way to provide income support for individuals with work-limiting disabilities and families with disabled the children. Our goal for this paper is to systematically present the issues for scholars and policy-makers to consider and explore.

Suggested Citation

Duggan, Mark and Kearney, Melissa S. and Rennane, Stephanie, The Supplemental Security Income (Ssi) Program (May 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w21209. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2612744

Mark Duggan (Contact Author)

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States

Melissa S. Kearney

University of Maryland - Department of Economics ( email )

College Park, MD 20742
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stephanie Rennane

University of Maryland ( email )

College Park
College Park, MD 20742
United States

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