Eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance

Olivia S. Mitchell and John W.R. Phillips

Abstract — In order to understand whom among the non-disabled older population experiences a health problem later in life and applies for Social Security Disability Insurance (DI), it is necessary to investigate patterns of coverage and reasons for non-coverage. While the safety net program covers most American workers, we use linked data from the Health and Retirement Study to show that a substantial group of older women, blacks, and less educated persons is not covered. Almost two-thirds of those who report having a work-limiting disability are not DI insured in later life. In this sense, the program is not helpful to many workers reaching their late 50’s and early 60’s with health-related problems.