A "Work First" Fix for a Failing Disability System
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Disability policy in the United States is failing the disabled. Social Security’s disability trust fund is projected to be insolvent in 2018, and the costs of our disability programs are rising at an unsustainable rate, yet the disabled are working less than ever before. Richard Burkhauser of Cornell, author of The Declining Work and Welfare of People with Disabilities (with Mary Daly, AEI Press, September 2011), offers a "work first" approach that has the potential to shrink caseloads, curb costs, and improve the economic outlook for people with disabilities. It builds on lessons learned from the mid-1990s welfare reform effort and the recent reform of Dutch disability policy. Encouraging work enables individuals to reap the benefits of a growing economy and lead happier, more productive lives. Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution and David Wittenburg of the Mathematica Policy Institute will respond.
11:30 AM
Registration and Luncheon

12:00 PM
RICHARD BURKHAUSER, Cornell University

RON HASKINS, Brookings Institution
DAVID WITTENBURG, Mathematica Policy Research



Question and Answer

1:30 PM
Event Contact Information

For more information, please contact Matthew McKillip at matthew.mckillip@aei.org, 202.862.7197.

Media Contact Information

For media inquiries, please contact Véronique Rodman at vrodman@aei.org, 202.862.4871.

Speaker Biographies

Richard V. Burkhauser
is the Sarah Gibson Blanding Professor of Public Policy in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management and professor in the Department of Economics, Cornell University. His professional career has focused on how public policies affect the economic behavior and well-being of vulnerable populations such as older persons, people with disabilities and low-skilled workers. He has published widely on these topics in journals of demography, economics, gerontology and public policy and is the coauthor of The Declining Work and Welfare of People with Disabilities (AEI Press, 2011). He was the 2010 president of the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.


Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at AEI. Mr. Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, where he oversaw the agency’s policy research efforts and led its participation in the Social Security Trustees working group. He worked on Social Security reform at the National Economic Council in 2005 and was on the staff of the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security in 2001.

Ron Haskins is a senior fellow in the economic studies program and codirector of the Center on Children and Families at the Brookings Institution. He is also a senior consultant at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. Mr. Haskins is the author of Work Over Welfare: The Inside Story of the 1996 Welfare Reform Law (Brookings, 2006), the coauthor of Getting Ahead or Losing Ground: Economic Mobility in America (Pew Charitable Trusts and Brookings, 2008), and a senior editor of the journal The Future of Children. In 2002, he was a senior advisor to the president on welfare policy. Before joining Brookings and Casey, Mr. Haskins spent fourteen years on the staff of the House Committee on Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, first as welfare counsel to the Republican staff, then as the subcommittee's staff director. While serving on the subcommittee, he was editor of the 1996, 1998 and 2000 editions of the Green Book. From 1981 to 1985, he served as a senior researcher at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

David Wittenburg is a senior researcher in the Center for Studying Disability Policy at Mathematica Policy Research. He is a labor economist who has directed and participated in several projects that examine interventions to promote employment among people with disabilities over the past 15 years. He has worked on several projects for the Social Security Administration, such as the Ticket to Work evaluation and the recently completed Accelerated Benefits Demonstration, where he gained familiarity with program rules and incentives that may influence work and ongoing program participation decisions by people with disabilities. He joined Mathematica Policy Research in August 2005.

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AEI Participants


Andrew G.
  • Andrew G. Biggs is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he studies Social Security reform, state and local government pensions, and public sector pay and benefits.

    Before joining AEI, Biggs was the principal deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA), where he oversaw SSA’s policy research efforts. In 2005, as an associate director of the White House National Economic Council, he worked on Social Security reform. In 2001, he joined the staff of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security. Biggs has been interviewed on radio and television as an expert on retirement issues and on public vs. private sector compensation. He has published widely in academic publications as well as in daily newspapers such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occasions. In 2013, the Society of Actuaries appointed Biggs co-vice chair of a blue ribbon panel tasked with analyzing the causes of underfunding in public pension plans and how governments can securely fund plans in the future.

    Biggs holds a bachelor’s degree from Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, master’s degrees from Cambridge University and the University of London, and a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics.

  • Phone: 202-862-5841
    Email: andrew.biggs@aei.org
  • Assistant Info

    Name: Kelly Funderburk
    Phone: 202-862-5920
    Email: kelly.funderburk@aei.org
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