It’s an icon of faith amongst conservatives that more and more people are claiming disability, and that these “cheaters” are part of the problem with this country.
Give it up. It isn’t true.
Here’s the data from the Social Security Administration:
What is being shown here? It is the contribution to the growth rate of claims by three groups: 1) retirees, 2) their survivors, and 3) the disabled.
For example, claims grew by 2.5% in 2011. Most of that (1.8%) came from retirees, a third came from the disabled (0.8%), and survivors actually decreased a little.
Now, look at that green line. It does spike a bit around the recessions in 2007-9, 2000-1, and 1990-1.
But, the predominant pattern is that it’s been roughly constant since the late 1980’s.
So what’s going on here?
Well, first, retirees are increasing. This has a pretty obvious cause: birth rates declines during bad economic times, and that trough in the mid-90’s is 65 years after the Great Depression. We’re now getting into the baby-boomers claiming social security, and the blue line is trending up.
And secondly, new disability claims have been more or less constant since the late 1980’s. At that time the oldest baby-boomers were in their early 40’s, and the youngest were in their mid 20’s. This is prime working years, where disability often strikes.
Now that some of the baby-boomers are retiring, they will no longer be eligible for disability claims. When we should start to worry is if that green line doesn’t start to drop towards zero a bit — over the next 20 years — as the baby bust of Generation X filters through the economy.
But, claiming that disability claims are somehow out of proportion to their recent history … is just false.