Supplemental Security Income for the Second Decade

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Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is an odd combination of income support for families with disabled children, disabled working-age adults, and elderly persons with inadequate retirement incomes. Less than three percent of Americans receive SSI payments. The program faces challenges on all three fronts: Payments for children with disabilities bear little relationship to family need or costs associated with caring for disabled children. State efforts to promote transition of children and adults from general assistance and TANF to SSI appear driven by fiscal considerations with little attention to health, functioning, and social integration objectives. Measuring the impact of poverty among the elderly is hampered by severe underreporting of benefits in survey data, most notably the Current Population Survey. This paper argues that SSI serves important purposes, but that all three target populations, especially children, might be served best by gradual decoupling or at least improved integration with other programs targeted to each of the three groups.

Suggested Citation:
Wiseman, Michael. “Supplemental Security Income for the Second Decade.” Poverty & Public Policy. Vol. 3, No. 1 2011, 1-18.