2019 RDRC Meeting: Economic Opportunity and Spatial Variation in Self-Reported Disability and Receipt of SSI & SSDI

Published: 2019


There is substantial variation in both self-reported disability and receipt of federal disability assistance (SSI and SSDI) across U.S. counties. This project examines whether and to what extent spatial variation in economic opportunity—operationalized using place-based estimates of intergenerational economic mobility for a recent cohort—can help us better understand the structural drivers of disability. We use data from the American Community Survey, Social Security Administration, and Equality of Opportunity Project to examine the two research questions: 1) Across counties, are rates of self-reported disability and SSI/SSDI receipt higher in areas characterized by low economic opportunity?; and 2) does economic opportunity moderate the relationship between unemployment and disability within counties over time?  We find that areas characterized by low economic opportunity have higher rates of disability, net of local area sociodemographic and economic characteristics. We also find evidence that economic opportunity moderates the relationship between business cycle dynamics and disability. This project aims to expand the discussion of the relationship between labor demand, business cycle dynamics, and disability.

Key Findings