Immigrant Networks and the Take-up of Disability Programs: Evidence from U.S. Census Data

Delia Furtado, University of Connecticut
Nikolaos Theodoropoulos, University of Cyprus

This paper examines the role of ethnic networks in determining Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) and Supplementary Security Income (SSI) take-up among working-age immigrants in the United States. Using data from the 2000 U.S. Census, we find that even when controlling for country of origin and area of residence fixed effects, immigrants residing amidst a large number of co-ethnics are more likely to receive disability payments when their ethnic groups have higher take-up rates. Although we show that part of this pattern can be explained by differences in the likelihood of satisfying the work history or income and asset requirements of the disability programs, we also present evidence that is consistent with network effects that are driven by social norms, partially consistent with network effects that are driven by information sharing, but inconsistent with network effects that are driven by leisure complementarities.

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Presented in Session 198: Disability and Labor Market Outcomes