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Developing Income-Related Statistics on Federal Disability Beneficiaries Using Nationally Representative Survey Data
DRC Working Paper Number: 18-05
Publisher: Washington, DC: Center for Studying Disability Policy, Mathematica Policy Research
Oct 30, 2018
- Even though all of the surveys are nationally representative, responses imply differences in the size of the beneficiary population as well as the share of beneficiaries who are DI-only, SSI-only, or concurrent. The beneficiary shares differ between the PUF and RAF versions of the SIPP and CPS-ASEC in ways generally consistent with earlier literature. Aggregate statistics on beneficiary counts mask what we found to be large misreporting of beneficiary status at the individual level, especially in the CPS-ASEC.
- Many sample characteristics are similar across surveys but there are some differences, including distributions of sex, age, marital status, and household size. Some, though not all, of these differences can be explained by differences in the survey questions and structure. Differences in beneficiary characteristics between the PUF and RAF versions of a data set highlight subgroups that are likely to misreport their benefits, including young and old respondents (who may confuse SSI and SSDI, or Old-Age and Survivors Insurance [OASI] and SSDI) and those who are married (who may misreport spousal benefits from another program).
- Despite differences in the beneficiary characteristics, the CPS-ASEC and SIPP generally paint a similar picture in overall mean and median household income, with modest differences between the PUF and RAF versions of each data set. The NBS is an outlier compared with the other two data sets: NBS shows that mean income levels among beneficiaries are approximately 30 to 50 percent lower than for the other surveys. This reflects several differences in how the NBS queries respondents about income relative to other surveys, and makes income data in the NBS of questionable value.
- Findings from the CPS-ASEC and SIPP show that beneficiaries are substantially more likely to be in poverty or near poverty than non-beneficiaries; SSDI-only beneficiaries fare better than SSI recipients. Consistent with the findings of other researchers, we find that poverty rates are slightly lower in the SIPP than in the CPS-ASEC, with more respondents in the SIPP being in income groups just above poverty. NBS poverty rates for beneficiaries are substantially higher than those from the other surveys, owing to the lower reported income levels.