JSIT20-01: Direct and Spillover Effects of Child Supplemental Security Income


  • Maliha M. Singh


Children having a sibling with a disability are often disadvantaged as parents need to divert a high proportion of their resources, time, and energy on the child with a disability in the family (Abrams, 2009). Prior research has demonstrated that siblings of disabled children who live in better economic situations tend to have better outcomes. This paper looks into the long-term effects of households receiving child Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on the disabled and non-disabled children in the family. In 1990, the Zebley reform took place which made it easier for children with intellectual disabilities to obtain SSI. This historic decision passed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Sullivan vs Zebley case allowed children with intellectual disabilities, previously not considered disabled for SSI purposes, to receive child SSI benefits for disability. This paper exploits the quasi-experimental variation induced by the Zebley decision to employ a difference-in-difference model. Implementing the model, it estimates the intent-to-treat estimates of being eligible for Zebley for an additional year on the outcomes of the children with Zebley affected intellectual disabilities and their siblings with no disabilities. The results of this paper shed light on the positive impacts of the Zebley reform on the children whose eligibility for SSI was impacted by Zebley, as well as and the spillover effects accruing to the other siblings in the family. Being eligible for SSI for an additional year not only increases the number of years of schooling completed by the Zebley-impacted child, but also increases the probability that the other siblings in the family complete high school by age 19, earn a higher income, and have private health insurance coverage at the age of 25.


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JSIT20-01: Direct and Indirect Effects of Receiving SSI Benefits During Childhood

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