Income Security Policy Paper No. 12

Work, Welfare, and the Burden of Disability: Caring for Special Needs of Children in Poor Families

Marcia K. Meyers, Anna Lukemeyer, and Timothy M. Smeeding

April 1996 

Abstract: This paper addresses issues that arise at the juncture of welfare and disability policies. Using preliminary data from a recent survey of current and recent AFDC recipients in California, we find that disabilities and chronic health problems affect the mothers or children in 43 percent of all households in the AFDC system. The presence of one or more children with disabilities or chronic illnesses is found to have an impact on the economic well-being of families, with increased levels of direct hardship reported by families caring for one or more severely impaired children. Potential causes of higher levels of hardship are examined by considering the impact of direct expenses associated with the care of the child(ren) and reductions in the mother's probability of paid employment. SSI receipt is found to have a modest antipoverty effect for families with special needs children, reducing the prevalence of poverty and extreme poverty for families even after the additional direct costs of caring for these children are considered.

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