Does the Supplemental Security Income Program Reduce Disability among the Elderly?

October 2005

Pamela Herd, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Robert F. Schoeni, and James S. House University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

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Given increasing evidence that medical care cannot fully explain variation in population health and increasing research on the relationship between socioeconomic factors and health, might non-health policies affect health? This research examines whether Supplemental Security Income (SSI) affects disability among the elderly. We use the 1990 and 2000 censuses, employing state and year fixed effect models, to test whether within state changes in maximum SSI benefits over time, which are plausibly exogenous to health, lead to changes in disability. The findings from this study support the hypothesis that both within-state changes in the maximum state SSI benefit and changes in SSI income received by individuals lead to changes in disability among single elderly individuals. Higher SSI benefits are linked to lower disability rates.

Health, Health Insurance, and Health Care, Social Welfare Programs and Policies