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The changing economic status of disabled women, 1982–1991 Trends and their determinants

The Economics of Disability

ISBN: 978-0-76230-529-2, eISBN: 978-1-84950-031-9

Publication date: 10 May 2000


In this paper, we provide an assessment of the intertemporal economic well-being of a representative sample of females who became new Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) beneficiaries in 1982. We compare their economic circumstances over the 1982 to 1991 period with those of both disabled men who became new SSDI beneficiaries in 1982, and a matched sample of nondisabled females who had sufficient work experience for benefit eligibility should they have become disabled. In 1982, the new SSDI women beneficiaries were a relatively poor segment of U.S. society. One quarter of them lived in poverty, and 48 percent had incomes below 150 percent of the poverty line. Over the subsequent decade, some of those married in 1982 lost husbands and the income contributed by their husbands. Yet, as of 1991, over one half of these disabled women lived in families with income below 150 percent of the poverty line. Social Security benefits to disabled women have played an important, and growing, role in sustaining economic status. Nevertheless, the level of well-being of these women lies substantially below that of the comparison groups, and for some groups of the women, well-being trends were negative both absolutely and relative to the comparison groups. We statistically relate the poverty status of these new female recipients to sociodemographic factors that would be expected to contribute to low well-being, and simulate the effect of Social Security benefits in reducing poverty and replacing earnings. We suggest a number of SSDI-related policy changes that could, at low cost, reduce poverty among those women with the highest incidence rates.


Haveman, R., Holden, K., Wolfe, B., Smith, P. and Wilson, K. (2000), "The changing economic status of disabled women, 1982–1991 Trends and their determinants", Salkever, D.S. and Sorkin, A. (Ed.) The Economics of Disability (Research in Human Capital and Development, Vol. 13), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 51-80.



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