Date of Award

Spring 2015

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Economics, Public Policy & Law

First Advisor

Mart Stater


Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) play an important role in the Social Security Administration (SSA) as they hear appeals from individuals who have been denied Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. As a result, the decisions of these judges have important effects on both individual welfare and government finances, especially given that the SSDI trust fund is expected to go bankrupt within the next few years. This paper examines how disability dispositions, decisions, and award rates by ALJs in the SSA vary according to factors such as gender, tenure with the SSA, age, general experience in the legal profession, and salary. The data, which span the years 2005-2011, are obtained from the SSA’s Office of Disability and Adjudication Review (ODAR), which publicly reports statistics such as the number of appeals heard and the percentage of favorable decisions by each judge, along with internet searches to obtain information on the personal attributes of the judges. Understanding the factors affecting the decisions of these judges could be useful for identifying fruitful avenues for the SSA to control spending through this program, and more generally could provide insight on how the attributes of highly educated professional workers affect their work output.


Senior thesis completed at Trinity College for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Economics, and Public Policy & Law.