AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Over the past several decades, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program has experienced a rapid growth in the number of individuals claiming benefits. Adding fuel to existing criticisms of the size and cost of the SSDI program, political analysts and journalists have suggested that some Americans choose to collect disability insurance not because they are disabled but because they cannot find suitable employment. To investigate this claim, we designed a novel disability insurance experiment to examine how labor market conditions affect healthy individuals’ likelihood of claiming disability benefits. In the experiment, participants take the role of workers in a laboratory economy. They are assigned to a low, medium, or high skill level and spend effort to work at a job. All workers face the same risk of becoming injured and can claim disability benefits when they are injured. Subsequently, workers will recover from injuries probabilistically. When a worker recovers they decide between returning to work or continuing to receive disability benefits. We manipulate the quality of the labor market to test if workers are more likely to continue claiming disability benefits when they cannot return to work at their given skill level. Further, we examine if information about people receiving disability benefits affects decisions about returning to work and support for disability insurance.
Scott Bokemper (Ph.D., Stony Brook University, 2017) is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics. He uses experimental methods to address questions related to poverty, inequality, social policy, and cooperation. He is also interested in designing and programming novel economic games.