SSI for the Aged and the Problem of 'Take-Up'

63 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2008

See all articles by Todd E. Elder

Todd E. Elder

Michigan State University

Elizabeth T. Powers

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Date Written: January 1, 2004


The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides an income and health care safety net for the elderly poor. The phenomenon of apparently eligible households that do not enroll in, or 'take up' SSI has been noted as a severe problem since the program's inception in 1974. This paper examines SSI eligibility, applications, and participation in the aged population from 1984 (the most recent year analyzed in the literature to date) through 1997. We are fortunate to have administrative data on SSI use that is linked to various panels of the SIPP. We use this information to estimate the SSI-aged application choice. The key findings from the earlier literature are sensitive with respect to exact sample specification, alternative approaches to imputing the expected SSI benefit, and more detailed information on application and receipt culled from administrative files. Our findings suggest that cash benefits may be less influential, and Medicaid access through SSI more influential, than previously estimated.

Suggested Citation

Elder, Todd E. and Powers, Elizabeth T., SSI for the Aged and the Problem of 'Take-Up' (January 1, 2004). Michigan Retirement Research Center Research Paper No. WP 2004-076, Available at SSRN: or

Todd E. Elder (Contact Author)

Michigan State University ( email )

110 Marshall-Adams Hall
Department of Economics
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-355-0353 (Phone)

Elizabeth T. Powers

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign ( email )

601 E John St
Champaign, IL 61820
United States

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