AMERICAN POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY WORKSHOP
Abstract: Do perceptions of abuse in public social insurance programs undercut program support?
Answering this causal question is difficult because perceptions of program abuse
can arise from multiple potential causes including prior opposition to the program.
Examining the case of disability insurance, we circumvent these challenges using multiple
laboratory experiments involving a novel simulated political economy to study the interplay between labor market shocks, program abuse, perceptions of abuse, and preferences for benefit levels. We find that negative labor market shocks that preclude injured workers from returning to work at their pre-injury wage upon recovery increases the probability of staying on disability instead of working at a lower-wage job despite
being healthy. Further, when benefits are costly, learning about program abuse causes workers unaffected by labor market shocks to prefer lower benefit levels. Our results demonstrate an important channel by which shocks to market employment diminish support for government social insurance.
Scott Bokemper (Ph.D., Stony Brook University, 2017) is a Postdoctoral Associate at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies and the Center for the Study of American Politics. He uses experimental methods to address questions related to poverty, inequality, social policy, and cooperation. He is also interested in designing and programming novel economic games.