For a small proportion of people living in the United States, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) represents a significant proportion of their total income. Since 1974, SSI has provided economic assistance to people with low incomes and resources and who are disabled or aged. This report provides a brief look at the SSI Program and its recipients.
The data for this report come from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), the Census Bureau’s primary source for longitudinal information on household economic and demographic characteristics. Since the early 1980s, SIPP has been a valuable source for data on national assistance programs, wealth, and overall social well being.
By collecting monthly data on income and program participation, SIPP allows analysts to measure change by repeatedly interviewing households and respondents to update their information. Each interview cycle, or wave, is conducted every 4 months during the survey period, and the number of waves in each SIPP panel is determined prior to the start of interviewing. This survey technique gives analysts the ability to follow respondents over time and measures the extent to which a particular sample is dependent on government programs. SIPP also has a number of topical modules that are used as a rich data resource for economists, demographers, sociologists, and other researchers. Information traditionally collected in SIPP’s topical modules includes assets, disability, child well being, healthcare utilization, and taxes. The SIPP data used for this report come from waves 5 and 11 (covering July 1997 and July 1999, respectively) and are supplemented using the disability information contained in the functional limitations topical modules that were administered in those waves. The SIPP does not include people who are institutionalized or live in group quarters as part of its sample frame.1
1 According to the Social Security Administration, individuals in some living arrangements that the Census Bureau defines as group quarters, are not eligible for SSI benefits. These arrangements include halfway houses, city or county rest homes, or public institutions. SSI benefits are, however, paid to individuals residing in Medicaid-approved institutions that would be considered group quarters by the Census Bureau’s definition. According to the SSA, 2.2 percent (0.1 million) of SSI recipients resided in Medicaid-approved institutions as of December 1999.