Job Demands and Social Security Disability Insurance Applications

TitleJob Demands and Social Security Disability Insurance Applications
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsBrown, C, Bound, J, Fang, C
Document NumberWP 2023-461
InstitutionMichigan Retirement and Disability Research Center, University of Michigan
CityAnn Arbor, MI
KeywordsJob demands, Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income

We use data from the Health and Retirement Study to identify the effect of job demands on applications for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income benefits and to assess whether these job demands have been changing among older (ages 51 to 61) workers. We find that workers in jobs with physical demands — physical effort, stooping, heavy lifting — are more likely to apply for disability benefits, controlling for workers’ age, education, marital status, and health. We find that other job characteristics that we can measure — requiring good eyesight, concentration, and dealing with people; and being stressful and becoming more difficult — have little effect on disability benefit applications. We do not find a reduction in the physical demands of jobs held by older workers over our 1992 to 2016 sample period. When we control for workers’ education, they have increased. More in line with expectations, we find older workers’ jobs increasingly require good eyesight, concentration, and dealing with people, and weaker trend increases in stressfulness or increasing difficulty of the job. Together, these findings suggest that changing job requirements are unlikely to be an important driver of changing disability benefits applications in the foreseeable future.

Citation Key13495