This project will develop a more complete picture of the economic environment and decisions of older low-skilled workers with moderate disabilities.  We aim to learn who is on the margin of withdrawing from the labor force to pursue disability benefits,  what would they earn if they continued to work,  how do these labor force exits affect work capacity and well-being in the long run,  and when do these effects play out over time and space  (i.e.,  local labor markets).To do this,  we address the two key challenges that have hindered work on these issues by assembling a comprehensive administrative data set on  SSDI  applications and earnings over a  period of more than two decades and by using exogenous variation in  SSDI  receipt generated by sharp increases in the probability that benefits are awarded at the ages of  50  and  55.

The Principal Investigator is Nicole Maestas.

If you have any questions, please contact Vanessa Azzone.


Maestas Nicole, Mullen Kathleen J., and Alexander Strand. The Effect of Economic Conditions on the Disability Insurance Program: Evidence from the Great Recession. Revise & Resubmit at Journal of Public Economics. NBER Working Paper #25388. [Preprint] DOI: 10.3386/w25338. Link.

Nicole Maestas. Identifying Work Capacity and Promoting Work: A Strategy for Modernizing the SSDI Program.  The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. Volume: 686 issue: 1, page(s): 93-120. Article first published online: November 6, 2019. . NIHMSID 1007327. PMCID in process.

Lopez-Garcia, Italo, Maestas Nicole, Mullen Kathleen. Latent Work Capacity and Retirement Expectations. Ann Arbor, MI. University of Michigan Retirement and Disability Research Center (MRDRC) Working Paper; MRDRC WP 2019-400. 2019 [Preprint]

Berger, Benjamin, Lopez-Garcia, Italo, Maestas Nicole, Mullen Kathleen. “The Link between Health and Working Longer: Differences in Work Capacity.” In Can’t Work, Can’t Retire: America’s Aging Workforce. Eds. Lisa Berkman and Beth C. Truesdale. Forthcoming 2021.

Publicly Available Datasets Created

Lopez-Garcia Italo, Maestas Nicole, Mullen Kathleen. 2018. American Work Capacity and Abilities Survey. Santa Monica, CA. RAND American Life Panel (ALP). (Under Embargo until 7/1/20).

Maestas Nicole, Mullen Kathleen, Ravesteijn Bastian, Sherry Tisamarie. 2019. Health and Functional Capacity Survey. Santa Monica, CA. RAND American Life Panel (ALP).

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