Working Papers

2003-12 | May 2003

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Left Behind: SSI in the Era of Welfare Reform

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SSI was established in 1972, born out of a compromise at the time between those wanting to provide a guaranteed income floor and those wishing to limit it to individuals not expected to work: the aged, blind, and disabled. SSI is now the largest federal means-tested program in the United States, serving a population dominated by low-income adults and children with disabilities. With other forms of federal support devolving to state programs (e.g., welfare), policymakers pressing to redefine social expectations about who should and should not work, and the Americans with Disabilities Act guaranteeing people with disabilities the right to employment, the goals and design of SSI have come under scrutiny. In this article we review the role that SSI has played to this point and consider the directions SSI might take in a work-dominated welfare environment where people with disabilities increasingly wish to be included in the labor market.

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