What Is the Relationship Between Deprivation and Child SSI Participation?



This paper examines how local deprivation relates to child Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participation. It uses Social Security Administration data on child SSI participation at the Census tract and county levels. It also uses American Community Survey data to construct a measure of economic deprivation that reflects a range of local socioeconomic factors including education, income, employment, and housing in local areas. In our analysis, we use this measure of deprivation and a predicted value of area child SSI participation based on this level of deprivation. We assess the extent of deviation between this predicted value of area child SSI participation and area child actual SSI participation.

The paper found that:

  • Local areas with higher deprivation have higher levels of child SSI participation, explaining slightly more than 30 percent of the variation in SSI participation.
  • Substantial geographic variation remains in child SSI participation rates, with some Census tracts showing higher predicted participation than actual participation, and others with lower predicted participation than actual participation.
  • Factors correlated with the deviation between predicted and actual child SSI participation include a community’s demographic composition, such as the share that is non-White or the share with a disability, and other factors such as social capital.
  • Declines in SSI applications during the COVID-19 pandemic were largest in areas with higher deprivation.

The policy implications of the findings are:

  • Local areas in which actual child SSI participation is substantially less than predicted might benefit from targeted outreach to better inform families about the SSI program.
  • By measuring the deviation between predicted and actual SSI participation at the Census tract level, targeted outreach efforts can precisely pinpoint places in which they might plausibly have the greatest impact on local SSI participation.

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