Social Security Disability:

Most of Gender Difference Explained

HEHS-94-94: Published: May 27, 1994. Publicly Released: May 27, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) program's allowance rates for older women, focusing on whether: (1) women aged 55 to 64 are receiving DI benefits at a lower rate than men; (2) the gender difference in allowance rates is due to differences in the type and severity of impairment or applicants' demographic characteristics; and (3) bias against older women is demonstrated by the accuracy ratings of disability decisions or the rates at which women and men eventually receive DI benefits.

GAO found that: (1) women of all ages are one-third less likely to receive DI benefits than men because they apply for benefits at lower rates; (2) the gender difference in allowance rates is largest among older applicants; (3) the type and severity of impairment and demographic characteristics account for two-thirds of the gender difference in DI allowance rates for older applicants; (4) more older women than men apply for DI benefits with less severe impairments; (5) women tend to have occupations that have lower allowance rates regardless of gender; (6) occupational differences could account for the unexplained differences in DI allowance rates; and (7) there was no evidence of bias in initial DI decisions for older women.

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