Occupations of Ssi Recipients Who Work

Article excerpt

This article uses the 2007 American Community Survey to estimate the occupational distribution of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability recipients aged 18-61 who work, and it compares their occupational distribution with that of working nonrecipients with and without disabilities. Based on models of occupational choice for working SSI recipients and nonrecipients, predicted occupational distributions are also estimated to understand what occupations are available to SSI recipients. Unlike the nonrecipient populations that are largely composed of sales- and office-based occupations (25 percent), the most common occupations of SSI recipients who work are in services (34 percent) and production, transportation, and material moving (30 percent), although sales- and office-based occupations are also common for SSI recipients (22 percent). The occupational distribution of working SSI recipients is also more concentrated than that of nonrecipient populations.

Dissimilarity indices are used to compare the predicted and actual occupational distributions of the SSI recipient population and nonrecipient populations. More than one-half of the difference between the occupations of working SSI recipients and nonrecipients can be explained by demographic characteristics, human capital, and disability type. Additionally, nonemployed SSI recipients have similar predicted occupational distributions as currently employed SSI recipients. Given the estimated occupational distributions and the average earnings of individuals in the most common occupations of SSI recipients, the results suggest that more targeted vocational training may provide expanded opportunities for employment.


The Social Security Administration's (SSA's) involvement in back-to-work programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, and programs generally designed to help recipients become economically self-sufficient would benefit from an understanding of the types of jobs available to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. With the exception of a few back-to-work studies and work incentive demonstrations, relatively little is known about the occupations of SSI recipients relative to non-SSI recipients. This article fills a gap in knowledge about the types of jobs recipients have and how this differs from the jobs of the nondisabled and nonrecipient populations.

According to SSA (2008a), 5.7? percent (or 357,344) of the working-age (18-64) SSI population worked in December? 2007. These individuals tend to have low wages; average earnings from wages were $597 in December. Knowledge of how the jobs these recipients hold differ from those of nonrecipients could help identify where vocational programs and placement efforts should best be focused and where outreach may be necessary to ensure employment opportunities for recipients. SSA is interested in assisting these individuals in becoming productive members of the economy and becoming self-sufficient. If individuals leave the SSI rolls but are trapped in marginal occupations (that is, occupations with low pay and insufficient health insurance), they may not only return to the program in the future, but may be in worse health, requiring greater expenditures from related programs (for example, Medicaid) than would have been required had they remained in the SSI program.

This article addresses three important questions regarding the occupations of the disabled. First, how do the occupations of people with disabilities (particularly SSI recipients) compare with the occupations of people without disabilities? Second, what occupations would the people with disabilities (particularly SSI recipients) have if they did not have a disability? And third, what occupations can we expect SSI recipients who are not working to have? This study uses the large sample size of the 2007 American Community Survey (ACS) to estimate the occupational distributions of the SSI recipient population and nonrecipient populations with and without disabilities. …