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Disability Insurance Income Saves Lives

We show that higher payments from US Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) reduce mortality. Using administrative data on new DI beneficiaries, we exploit discontinuities in the benefit formula through a regression kink design. We estimate that $1,000 more in annual DI payments decreases the annual mortality rate of lower-income beneficiaries by approximately 0.18 to 0.35 percentage points, implying an elasticity of mortality with respect to DI income of around -0.6 to -1.0. We find no robust evidence of an effect of DI income on the mortality of higher-income beneficiaries. The mortality effects imply large welfare benefits of disability insurance.

Alexander Gelber
Timothy Moore
Zhuan Pei
Alexander Strand
Publication Date
April, 2022