WI23-05: The Effect of Public Policies on Work Disability: A Lifecourse Perspective



This study estimates the impact of exposure to three welfare-enhancing policies throughout the life course – Medicaid, Food Stamps, and the Earned Income Tax Credit – on the probability of experiencing work disability as an adult. Work disability is characterized primarily by self-reports of health conditions that limit work ability. Individuals report the severity of conditions over time – permitting identifying limitations based on duration and severity. Individuals reporting both chronic and severe work limitations are expected to be at the highest risk of applying for Disability Insurance (DI) benefits. Additionally, work disability is identified by probable receipt of DI benefits, which is observed by self-reported Medicare receipt prior to age 65. The Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) is used to complete the analysis with over 50 years of longitudinal data that supports identifying policy effects from infancy through adulthood. The study aims to investigate differential policy effects by race/ethnicity and gender as sample sizes permit. It also aims to examine whether there may be an optimal time in the life course – in terms of decreasing the probability of work disability – to have access to these policies. Results will inform policymakers, and the Social Security Administration in particular, on whether safety-net policies may contribute to changing DI application trends and future projections.


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