Supplemental Security Income: Continuity and Change since 1974

Research Report

Supplemental Security Income: Continuity and Change since 1974

August 26, 2021


The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides critical financial support to people with low income and few assets, including children and working-age adults with severe disabilities as well as adults ages 65 and older. In 2019, about 2.4 percent of people in the United States received SSI, up from about 1.6 percent in 1974. This brief describes how the program works, and the demographic and economic characteristics of SSI beneficiaries (generally prior to the pandemic as enrollment has declined during the pandemic, likely due to field office closings). It includes a discussion of state programs that supplement federal SSI, explores reasons some eligible people do not participate in SSI, and previews some changes to the program currently under discussion.

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