How Progressive Is Social Security When Old Age and Disability Insurance Are Treated as a Whole?

Brief

How Progressive Is Social Security When Old Age and Disability Insurance Are Treated as a Whole?

Abstract

This brief, building on the discussion of progressivity in Straight Talk 37, shows how including Disability Insurance (DI) restores very modest levels of progressivity to the Social Security system as a whole. That is, some lower lifetime earnings groups that fall victim to regressive trends under the Old-Age Survivors' Insurance program find their situation considerably improved or reversed when DI is added to the mix, in the form of higher internal rates of return on the benefits they receive over a lifetime. Generally, we find that black men, those earning in the bottom quintile, and those dropping out of high school have a greater chance of receiving DI than other groups.

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