The Effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Supplemental Security Income
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and implemented in 1992 with the goal of eliminating discrimination against disabled workers. It did so by requiring employers to accommodate disabled workers and by providing protections against discrimination based on a disability in terms of hiring, termination, and wage decisions. While a number of studies have examined the ADA’s impact on the employment of disabled individuals, it is important to also understand the impact on their use of federal disability programs, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI). I investigate this using state and county data on SSI outcomes for blind and disabled adults, together with a range of complementary data on demographic and economic characteristics. There is evidence of an increase in SSI applications and allowances in the first three years after the implementation of the ADA in all states treated by the ADA. These effects are concentrated in states that had no employment protections prior to the ADA, as opposed to states with protections but no disability accommodations. Compared to the findings for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), the effects of the ADA are similar in terms of increases in applications and stronger in terms of increases in allowances. The results suggest that some of the ADA’s effects on employment may have led disabled individuals to apply for SSI.
- States whose disabled workers received greater employment protections or workplace accommodations after the introduction of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) generally had similar trends in the years before it was introduced in terms of their rates of blind and disabled adult Supplemental Security Income (SSI) applications, allowances, and recipients, when compared to states unaffected by the ADA.
- After the introduction of the ADA, there was an increase in SSI applications in affected states relative to the unaffected comparison states. After controlling for permanent differences and other factors such as demographic and economic characteristics, SSI applications in treated states increased by around 10% relative to the average rate just before the passage of the ADA. These effects last for the three years immediately after the introduction of the ADA, and are statistically significant at conventional levels. These effects are larger in states that were affected by the ADA’s disability employment protections, rather than just the provisions related to workplace accommodations.
- Overall, there is no discernible change in SSDI allowance rates after the introduction of the ADA when the same estimation techniques are applied. However, in states affected by the ADA’s disability employment protections, there is a statistically significant increase in SSI allowances of around 20% relative to the average rate just before the passage of the ADA.
- This may partly be due to less precision being available for this outcome, although in general it looks as though the changes in SSDI application rates did not strongly elevate SSDI allowance rates.
Consistent with the results for applications and allowances, there is some evidence of an increase in the overall number of SSI recipients in the first few years after the implementation of the ADA, although there is less precision for these results and there are also some pre-existing differences in the trends for this outcome across states affected and unaffected by the passage of the ADA.
- The results suggest that the increases in SSI outcomes are concentrated in states that had no employment protections or accommodations prior to the ADA, as opposed to states with employment protections but no accommodations. Overall, the results suggest that the ADA may have affected key SSI outcomes, and that it did so through the increased protections provided to disabled workers.
These results are broadly consistent with the SSDI results in Moore (2021), a previous MRDRC project. In relative terms, the estimated effects on applications and allowances are slightly larger for SSI than SSDI. This is interesting, as SSI protects individuals with more limited work histories who may be more affected by changes in employment incentives.
Moore, Tim. 2023. “The Effect of the Americans with Disabilities Act on Supplemental Security Income.” Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2023-464. https://mrdrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/papers/pdf/wp464.pdf
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Paper IDWP 2023-464