Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

124P Differences and Trends In Income and Means-Tested Transfer for Individuals with Mental and Physical Disabilities In the United States From 1992 to 2007

Saturday, January 14, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jessica K. Camp, LMSW, PhD Student, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Eileen Trzcinski, PhD, Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Purpose: This research study examines differences in income, poverty levels and means-tested transfer income for individuals with mental and physical disabilities compared to individuals who have no disabilities. Previous research has tended not to differentiate between those with mental versus those with physical disabilities when examining income disparity. In the United States the ongoing financial crisis has contributed to growing public criticism of social welfare programs. Cuts to social welfare have led to growing disparities among those who are disabled versus those who are not. How economic outcomes differ for those with mental disabilities versus physical disabilities is largely unknown. Hence this research seeks to examine the pattern of economic outcomes across four different groups and across a time span from 1992 to 2007.

Methods: Data were obtained from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) public use Core files and Topical Modules for Functional Limitations and Disability from 1992 to 2007. The SIPP is a longitudinal dataset administered by the U.S. Census Bureau that collects monthly information on employment, income, and welfare. Generalized Linear Models within a complex samples framework were used to examine differences in economic outcomes for four groups of individuals: those with (1) mental disabilities, (2) physical disabilities, (3) mental and physical disabilities, and (4) no disability. Time was interacted with disability status in order to examine trends in outcomes over the period under study. The model also included controls for race, gender, education, and age.

Results: In all years, major differences existed across the four groups and across race, gender, and educational level. Not surprisingly those without disabilities had substantially higher incomes and lower rates of poverty than those with disabilities. The most disadvantaged where those with mental as well as physical disabilities. Prior to 2000, white men and women with mental disabilities had similar levels of income and poverty to those with physical disabilities. Differences between the two groups, however, emerged after 2000. For African Americans, differences in outcomes between the two groups of disabled persons occurred at an earlier year, 1995. Across each of the three groups of disabled persons, sharp drops were also observed in the percentage of persons who received transfer income from 2001 to 2007. Based on the estimated model, in the period post 2000, individuals with mental disabilities had an average CPI-adjusted monthly income of $1060.68, individuals with physical disabilities had an income of $1,346.42, individuals with mental and physical disabilities had an income of $999.00, and those with no disabilities had an income of $2,028.60.

Implications: Despite lack of current research that has examined the differences in income experienced by individuals with disabilities, welfare reform has been focused on the limitation and reduction of public assistance. This study illuminates disparities experienced by individuals with disabilities and calls for an examination of policy for this group of Americans.