Why Is There Regional Variation in the Numbers of Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Beneficiaries?
One of the major critiques of the DI and SSI programs is that rates of receipt vary considerably by region across the country. This, argue the critics, suggests significant inconsistencies at the various decision-making levels, and in the enforcement of DI and SSI eligibility criteria. Today we will examine the various factors that account for regional variations in rates of DI and SSI receipt.
Certainly, it is reasonable to ask why such regional variation exists, and inconsistencies are inevitable in any bureaucracy, including the Social Security Administration (SSA).
But consider for a moment the pronounced regional differences across the United States – differences in geography, culture, industry, and so on. To think that multifaceted regional variety would not also have corresponding effects on the needs of each regional population is illogical.
Average education level, median age, immigrant population, and economy type vary by state. So, a state like Kentucky, with an industry-based economy (mining), an older median age, a relatively low rate of high school graduation, and a smaller immigrant population, has more DI and/or SSI recipients than a state whose population has a higher average level of education, a lower median age, and a larger immigrant population, such as California.
Using data collected by the SSA and the Bureau of The Census, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that between 11-13% of Kentucky’s population receives SSI and/or DI benefits, whereas it estimates California’s receipt rate to be between 3-5%. Regional differences in DI and SSI rates of receipt are not indicators of a faulty dispersal system, but simply a natural byproduct of a large and regionally diversified country.