Between 2009 and 2015, the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipient rate grew from 3.9% to 4.4% of the working-age population, despite decreases in the unemployment rate nationwide. James Eubanks and David Wiczer examined the connections between SSDI recipients and county-level employment data in a recent paper.
SSDI receipt is more concentrated and is highest in counties with the worst economic prospects. From 2009-2015, the unemployment rate fell in most counties, but the association between unemployment and disability changed—those with the highest unemployment had more SSDI recipients. The rise in SSDI is associated with economic hardship and increased geographic inequality. The authors concluded that, since SSDI is designed with a set of job-related criteria, high-unemployment counties with fewer vocational prospects would have an increasing share of new benefit recipients.