Economic Conditions, the COVID-19 Pandemic Recession, and Implications for Disability Insurance in the United States

20 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2022

See all articles by Kathleen Mullen

Kathleen Mullen

University of Southern California

Nicole Maestas

Harvard Medical School - Department of Health Care Policy

Date Written: July 2022

Abstract

Previous economic downturns have led to increases in applications for and, eventually, receipt of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. In the pandemic-induced recession of 2020 and its aftermath, however, SSDI applications did not increase. One important factor may have been the prolonged closure of SSA field offices, since previous research finds that field office closures lead to persistent declines in SSDI beneficiaries in the surrounding communities. In this case, there may be pent-up demand for SSDI benefits as normal operations resume in areas where the economy has not fully recovered. Nevertheless, unemployment insurance expansions and other government support programs were materially different than in past recessions, which appears to have enabled people to weather the downturn and avoid applying for SSDI benefits. In this paper, we draw on prior research and recent federal statistics to discuss the unfolding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the SSDI program and its beneficiaries.

Keywords: disability insurance, unemployment insurance, pandemic

JEL Classification: D12, D18, G2, G5, G18

Suggested Citation

Mullen, Kathleen and Maestas, Nicole, Economic Conditions, the COVID-19 Pandemic Recession, and Implications for Disability Insurance in the United States (July 2022). Wharton Pension Research Council Working Paper No. 2022-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4178289 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4178289

Kathleen Mullen (Contact Author)

University of Southern California ( email )

2250 Alcazar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

Nicole Maestas

Harvard Medical School - Department of Health Care Policy ( email )

180 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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