2019 RDRC Meeting: Housing Assistance and SSI Participation

Published: 2019


Over the past 30 years, SSI caseloads have increased dramatically and currently provide 8.2 million recipients with $52 billion in cash assistance. In addition to cash and health care benefits, low-income disabled households typically qualify for housing assistance. This assistance can be quite valuable, though benefits vary substantially by location. Local public housing authorities often have long waiting lists for access to housing assistance as it is the only segment of our social safety net which is rationed. This paper begins by documenting an increasing trend of giving priority access to housing assistance to disabled households.  One potential concern of prioritizing disabled households for housing assistance is that it may distort the decision of households to apply for disability benefits through SSI. This paper investigates whether prioritizing housing assistance for disabled households leads to increased SSI participation. We first measure local-level housing assistance preference for disabled households since 1990 using data from the Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.  We then use variation in expected disabled housing benefit value over time and within metro area to determine whether increased disabled preference leads to greater SSI participation.  We find evidence that SSI participation increases with disabled housing preference, particularly among lower-educated and unmarried household heads

Key Findings