WI22-04: All in the Family: Parents of Children with Disabilities and Retirement



Parents of children with disabilities face a unique set of tradeoffs in retirement decisions. They may be more constrained in their ability to save for retirement in their prime labor-market years, and, once they reach retirement, may require greater economic resources to support their families while balancing caregiving responsibilities.

A variety of benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) have the potential to provide economic stability for these families, including parental retirement benefits and childhood disability benefits. Income from SSA benefits may be particularly salient for this group, given the constraints faced by parents of children with disabilities as they save for retirement. However, despite the importance of this issue for many U.S. families, little is known about how parents raising children with disabilities think about their financial options when planning for retirement, their retirement behavior, and the adequacy of current policy in supporting families’ well-being.

This mixed-methods study uses both nationally representative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 (NLSY) and semi-structured interviews with parents to address this gap. It will inform policymakers about (1) the economic security of families who may rely on SSA retirement and disability benefits, and (2) how and whether SSA benefit structure and other current policy may influence retirement decisions for parents of children with disabilities.


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