An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

David Autor on Disability

Listen to the EconTalk podcast David Autor on Disability and consider these questions.

1. What was the original intent of SSDI? How is it funded?

2. Roberts notes a “redistributive kick” in the SSDI program. What is this “kick,” and how does it affect the program?

3. What does “substantial gainful activity” mean, and how does the way it is defined influence the incentive structure of the SSDI program?

4. How is “disability” defined by the Social Security Administration? How have SSDI claims changed since the introduction of the program?

5. What is the relationship between disability claims and the unemployment rate? What sort of explanation does Autor offer to explain this?

6. Autor claims there is a “for-profit advocacy component to getting people onto SSDI.” What does he mean by this?

7. How does Autor describe the relationship between SSDI and the recent “jobless recoveries?”

8. Autor describes how SSDI underwent “liberalization” by Congress. How has the determination of an individual’s eligibility for SSDI changed, and how has this in turn changed the composition of the SSDI rolls?

9. Autor criticizes SSDI for offering employers no incentive to reduce employees’ usage of the program. What does Autor have in mind in terms of using the system more responsibly?

10. When Roberts asks Autor for alternative structures, Autor answers that the existing system is “perfectly reasonable” for some. Who does he have in mind, and how would he change SSDI to better accommodate those not currently well-served?

11. Roberts suggests SSDI as an excellent example of a “Bootleggers and Baptists” coalition? What does this mean, and to what extent do you agree that SSDI is such a coalition?