Graph of the Week: Jared Bernstein and Kathy Ruffing on Disability Insurance Roll Growth: Makers, Takers, and Fakers Weblogging: Hoisted from Other People's Archives from Last January
My submission to the Atlantic Monthly series for the most important graph of 2013:
Jared Bernstein: Disability Rolls and the Makers/Takers/Fakers Nonsense:
Kathy Ruffing [has facts] about the factors actually responsible for most of the increase in the DI rolls.... Population... aging... more women... working and thus eligible for the program... half of the increase since 1990 is due to those factors.... The increase in the eligibility age for Social Security from 65 to 66 over this period has also played a role over these years, as once DI recipients hit the retirement eligibility age, they transfer onto the retirement program.
I’ve always thought the key test of the Jimmy P et al. claim--that lots of people were abusing the DI rolls when they could be working--is the extent to which the DI rolls are countercyclical, meaning they go up when the economy goes down.... What Kathy finds... is... applications... [do line] up roughly with... unemployment.... But awards... less so... [unless you] squint.... Some growth in the DI rolls that may reflect folks getting DI who ought not to, much of the increase appears to be explainable by known, legitimate factors.... More than 90% of entitlement dollars go to people who are either elderly, disabled, or working.... The makers/takers frame is factually wrong not to mention mean-spirited and divisive... [and] that frame just sounds really nasty to me... I’d urge them and others to give it up.