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Pear, Robert. 2019 “On Disability and on Facebook? Uncle Sam Wants to Watch What You Post (Links to an external site.).” New York Times, March 10. [Article PDF]


1. What is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI, commonly referred to as Disability Insurance or DI), and what are the primary eligibility criteria? Based on the article, what would be the purpose of allowing SSDI examiners to monitor people’s activity on social media like Facebook and Twitter?

2. Based on the article, how has the number of SSDI applicants changed since 2010? In what sense is the cyclical pattern of SSDI applications evidence of moral hazard associated with the program?

3. Use this SSDI calculator (Links to an external site.), which approximates how much one could receive in SSDI benefits based on earnings, age, and work history, to determine how much the following two individuals would receive in SSDI benefits if they were to qualify:

(i) a 30-year old who has worked 10 years and is currently earning $20,000/year.

(ii) a 30-year old who has worked 10 years and is currently earning $100,000/year.

Using the resulting monthly incomes and estimated disability benefits, calculate the replacement rates for these two individuals. Discuss how both the disability benefit level as well as the replacement rate varies with income. Do you think this structure of benefits is fair? Why or why not?