A Double Safety Net? Understanding Interactions Between Disability Benefits, Formal Assistance, and the Role of the Family

Stephanie Rennane , RAND Corporation

Disabled individuals draw upon many types of support after disability onset. I use the Health and Retirement Study to examine trends in family assistance and other public and private insurance before and after the onset of disability. I identify the extent to which federal disability benefits change these patterns in a fixed-effects, difference-in-differences framework by comparing accepted and rejected disability applicants in matched Social Security Administration records. Total household income declines by 20-40 percent following disability onset, while family transfers and other formal income transfers increase. Furthermore, disability benefits crowd in family assistance on the extensive and intensive margins, increasing the probability of a family transfer by 7 percent, and nearly doubling the amount of assistance provided. Family support is especially important for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) beneficiaries, and SSI may be used offset the costs of provision of informal care, enabling families to increase the amount of assistance provided.

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 Presented in Session 74. Demography of Formal and Informal Care