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Characteristics of Disability Beneficiaries with High Earnings
- Personal characteristics. Compared to all other beneficiaries, high earners were more likely to be younger and to have completed high school. Compared with other working beneficiaries, high earners were more likely to be married and to have children younger than age 18. Among workers, the level of earnings made no difference in terms of household poverty. Working beneficiaries (both high and other earners) were less likely than nonworking beneficiaries to live in households with incomes below the federal poverty level.
- Health status. High earners reported fewer limiting conditions and better general health than other beneficiaries. Their comparatively better health likely contributed to their higher work capacity.
- Job characteristics. Among employed beneficiaries, high earners were much more likely to work full time, be offered employer-sponsored health insurance, and to work in sales, office, and administrative support, and other professional and skilled labor. They were less likely to be working in a sheltered work environment or in service, production, and transportation occupations.
- Public assistance and other benefits. Compared with all other beneficiaries, high earners were less likely to have received SSA or other government benefits, were less likely to be covered by Medicaid, and were more likely to be covered by private health insurance.
Federal income support programs for working-age people with disabilities have undergone unprecedented growth over the past 10 years. Along with changes in the labor market and societal perceptions of disability, this growth has led to greater interest in promoting employment, economic well-being, and self-sufficiency among people receiving benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) disability programs. Despite efforts under programs such as Ticket to Work, however, the employment rates of working-age individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance have remained low, and few working beneficiaries earn at levels sufficient to leave the disability rolls. In this brief, we document the characteristics and work-related experiences of beneficiaries who work and earn at relatively high levels, and compare them with other working and nonworking beneficiaries. The findings provide insights into the factors associated with successful employment among beneficiaries and suggest that there is a potential for some beneficiaries to reduce reliance on public assistance through earnings.