The Changing Economic Status of U.S. Disabled Men: Trends and Their Determinants, 1982–1991


In this paper, we track the level of economic well-being of the population of men who began receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits in 1980–81 from the time just after they became beneficiaries (in 1982) to 1991, nearly a decade later. We present measures of the economic well-being of disabled individuals and their nondisabled peers as indicators of the relative economic position of these two groups. These measures also provide an intertemporal comparison of well-being and hardship as disabled persons and their nondisabled peers age and retire. We first show several economic well-being indicators for this group of new male recipients of disability benefits in 1982 and 1991. Then, we compare their economic position to that of a matched group of nondisabled males with sufficient work histories to have been disability-insured, that is, eligible for SSDI benefits had they been unable to engage in substantial gainful employment. Because labor market changes over this decade have led to a relative deterioration in the position of younger and less-educated workers, we compare men with disabilities to those without disabilities and distinguish different age and educational levels within the groups. In studying these comparative trends in well-being, we focus on the prevalence of poverty and its correlates. We conclude by assessing the antipoverty effectiveness of Social Security income support for both younger and older men who became SSDI recipients in 1980–81.

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