The Impact of Losing Childhood Supplemental Security Income Benefits on Long-Term Education and Health Outcomes
Many youth with disabilities rely on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) as an important source of income for their families, but they must go through a redetermination process at age 18 if they are to continue receiving those benefits into adulthood. Our project uses data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health) to examine the long-term impact of losing child SSI upon turning 18, due to the 1996 welfare reform, on education and health outcomes. We compare the long-term outcomes of those who turned 18 just after August 1996 with those who turned 18 just before, given that the reform increased the strictness of medical reviews for 18-year-old beneficiaries. Because the respondents are in their 30s and 40s in the later waves of the survey, we also examine the health outcomes of their children.
The paper found that:
- Those who were likely to lose SSI at age 18 have fewer years of education and are less likely to attend college than those who were less likely to lose their benefits.
- There is suggestive evidence of worse health outcomes for the children of those who were likely to lose their SSI benefits at age 18.
The policy implications of the findings are:
- Discontinuing benefits at age 18 has a negative impact on the human capital attainment of child SSI beneficiaries, which may explain their lower long-term earnings relative to other disadvantaged populations.
- The negative impacts of discontinuing child SSI benefits may continue into the next generation.
- Moderate amounts of cash transfers to children of vulnerable families may lead to lasting positive impacts.