Impact of the 1996 SSI Childhood Disability Reforms on Affected Children and Families

Published: 2003
Project ID: UM03-C1


The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 changed the definition of disability used to determine eligibility for disabled children under the Supplemental Security Income program and made other changes in the program. The law required the redetermination of eligibility status for children potentially affected by the new definition of disability. As a result, an estimated 100,000 children were expected to lose SSI benefits. The goal of this project is to understand the impact of benefit loss on affected children and their families. The analysis draws on data from the 1992, 1993 and 1996 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation matched with Social Security Administration data on program participation. The data are used to analyze the impact of the loss of SSI income as a result of the 1996 legislation on family labor supply, welfare program participation, and income and poverty. We also include a measure of family Social Security income in the models to assess the importance of Social Security benefits for affected families. Previous analyses indicate that, in the short term, families that lost SSI benefits as a result of the 1996 legislation experienced increased incomes, perhaps as parents increased work effort and/or reliance on welfare benefits. The positive effect on family income is attenuated in the longer term, perhaps as families face welfare time limits or trade-offs between work and caring for a child with a disability. Using data better suited to address these issues, we will determine whether the results of previous analyses can be confirmed.