This paper uses survey data matched to administrative records to measure the effect on Disability Insurance [DI] application behavior of a natural experiment in the provision of Social Security benefit information. I find that receipt of the Social Security Statement [Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statement or PEBES], a document gradually introduced in the 1990s which contained personalized information on DI insurance-status and potential benefit, had a positive, substantial, and statistically significant effect on DI application rates of the Health and Retirement Study sample. This increased likelihood of application by 0.84 of a percentage point per two-year period, which is a 62% increase over the base rate. This overall effect was driven by a large increase in the rate of application among those reporting a work-limiting condition and who were previously not employed. The non-work-limited population experienced a small decrease in their DI application rates, suggesting that provision of the Statement increased self-sorting efficiency among potential applicants. Furthermore, my analysis shows no evidence of applicants merely "shifting forward" their DI application after Statement receipt; instead, the estimated increase appears to be new applicants. In the absence of these new applicants, the 32% growth rate of the per-capita DI rolls from 1995-2004 would have been approximately 25%. These results provide a novel explanation for a large portion of the marked rise in DI rolls since the 1990s as well as indicate the importance of the information environment in social program application decisions more broadly.
Jan 5, 2014
Does This Explain Some Of The Increase In Disability Claims?
The abstract of a study by Philip Armour of Cornell University: