Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program run by Social Security Administration that gives a monthly income to people with disabilities, blind, or who are 65 or older with limited income and property. Recipients must be a U.S. citizen or a national with countable income below the federal benefit rate or FBR.
Recipients are grouped into children (age 17 and younger), working age (ages 18 to 64), and elderly (age 65 and older). Different policy issues and rules apply to various age groups. There are disability screens for children and working-age applicants while elderly must pass the income and asset screens to qualify regardless of whether they are disabled.
This program does not limit the number of recipients living in the same house. There are three types of households: one-recipient households, households with two married SSI recipients and no other recipients, and households with multiple recipients other than married couple recipients, also known as the noncouple multirecipient (NCM) households. Different economies of scale arise from these categories.
Two different surveys about SSI recipients were conducted by the SIPP or the Survey of Income and Program Participation and Social Security Administration. Both have the same analysis and records indicating that one out of five SSI recipients live with one, or more, SSI recipient who is not a spouse. Nonmarried-couple recipients living in the same household is guaranteed the full individual federal benefit rate while married couple recipients are guaranteed with 150 percent of the FBR for individuals. This means that relationships between SSI members and other members of the household do not affect benefit payments unless they are married couples living in the same household. Children are most likely to live in an NMC household.
Current program rules concerning NCMs assesses the sensitivity of distributional outcomes to the unit of observation, the timeframe of income measurement, and the scale used to measure poverty. Assumption imbedded in the SSI benefit formula drives the lower prevalence of poverty among NMCs as compared with married couples. Poverty is more prevalent in individuals who do not live with another SSI recipient than the NCMs or married couples. Individual SSI recipients living alone have high prevalence of poverty. Poverty is reduced among recipients living with nonrecipients because of the total income received by the household.
Economies of scale result from family or household size, marital status, and other factors. In measuring the effects of SSI program rules on poverty among SSI recipients, it is appropriate to use either the federal or the three-parameter poverty yardstick.