Despite the controversy surrounding welfare programs, there is little empirical evidence about the long-term effects of these programs on recipients. In a recent paper, Deshpande (2016), I study the long-term effects of removing low-income youth from a large cash welfare program, using a policy change from the 1996 welfare reform law. I find that youth who are removed from welfare have low earnings and minimal earnings growth in adulthood. The results indicate that this welfare program does not substantially inhibit success and self-sufficiency among youth.
Recent growth in the number of Disability Insurance claimants has led to calls for substantial scaling back of the program. We evaluate the incentive cost of the DI program against its insurance value to those in need. The main failure of the program is the number of severely work limited who do not receive insurance: the program is badly targeted.
The number of people who receive long-term disability payments has grown rapidly in many countries, raising the question of whether it is possible for some of them to return to gainful employment. Analysing the impact of a major disability reform in the Netherlands, this research finds that long-term recipients of disability insurance were on average able to replace about 60% of lost benefits with labour income. This is evidence of substantial remaining work capacity among recipients and it suggests that there is scope for disability insurance reform to tap into this capacity.
Can financial incentives encourage disability program participants to work? Due to a lack of randomized experiments with well-defined treatment and control groups, there is little evidence on this question. This paper helps to fill the void by exploiting a policy change in the Norwegian disability system that approximates a well-controlled policy experiment. The results show that financial incentives induce many disability recipients to work, enough so that overall program costs fall in spite of the added financial incentives. The analysis points to the possibility that incorporating financial incentives into the U.S. disability system could achieve similar results.