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Studies report demographics of SSD benefits recipients

The Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD) program offers benefits that help many Americans. Whether due to a work accident or debilitating illness, many thousands of Americans receive Social Security disability benefits.

Tennessee residents may be interested to learn that according to studies by the Urban Institute, a greater proportion of those people who live in southern states receive disability benefits than do people in other parts of the country. According to the Urban Institute, the reasons for this difference stem from a number of factors, including health of residents, job type, earnings, labor force participation and state demographics.

Interestingly, nationwide, the number of disabled workers who receive benefits has risen significantly in recent decades. According to studies by the Urban Institute, almost six times the number of workers who received benefits in 1970 receive benefits today. In 1970, roughly 1.5 million disabled workers received SSD benefits. By 2013, that number had risen to almost 9 million. The Urban Institute attributes this growth to a variety of factors, including changes in federal policy, as well as the aging population. Reflecting women's increased involvement in the workforce and increased earnings, women and men now make up an almost equal percentage of the disabled worker population, in contrast to 1970, when men represented a higher percentage.

Perhaps not surprisingly, studies conducted by the Urban Institute have found that older workers represent a greater proportion of disability benefits recipients than other age groups. The average age of those persons receiving disability insurance is approximately 53 years old, and workers older than age 60 represent the greatest percentage of those receiving benefits, which may reflect that health problems are often more troublesome as people age. These studies reflect the varied nature of the Social Security disability program, which continues to accommodate the changing needs of the disabled population.

Source:, "11 Charts about the Social Security Disability Insurance Program," Jonathan Schwabish, Feb. 25, 2016

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