The abstract of Characteristics and Employment of Applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance Over the Business Cycle, a study by Stephan Lindner and Clark Burdick for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College:
This study investigates the relationship between fluctuations in the short-term unemployment rate and characteristics of applicants for Social Security Disability Insurance. Using administrative records of the universe of applicants between 1991 and 2008, we find that almost all of the increase in applications and allowances during recession periods is due to increasing applications and allowances of people whose applications are either rejected or determined by vocational factors. People who apply during economic downturns also have lower income and assets at the time of application and lower earnings several years after application. Further decomposition results suggest that difficult macroeconomic conditions during the time of application account for the negative relationship between the unemployment rate and post-application earnings and employment.And in the body of the report, these statements:
The results so far suggest that more people with moderate disabilities apply when the unemployment rate is high. Therefore, one would also expect that the fraction of applicants with musculoskeletal impairments or mental disorder increases with the unemployment rate. However, we do not [fi]nd supportive evidence for such a compositional change. ...
[W]e [fi]nd no evidence that younger workers apply more frequently during recessions and that the work capacity of applications during economic downturns is higher.