Wealth Distribution and Retirement Preparation among Early Savers
This paper develops a new combined-wealth measure by augmenting data on net worth from the Survey of Consumer Finances with estimates of defined benefit (DB) pension and expected Social Security wealth. We use this concept to explore retirement preparation among two groups of households in pre-retirement years (aged 40 through 49 and 50 through 59), and to explore the concentration of wealth. We find evidence of moderate, but rising, shortfalls in retirement preparation. We also show that including DB pension and Social Security wealth results in markedly lower measures of wealth ...
Can We Tax Social Security Benefits More Efficiently?
Many seniors pay taxes on their Social Security benefits due to a provision in the program's 1983 reform, under which the portion of benefits that's taxable rises with total income. This tax structure can impose high marginal rates on seniors even if their other income sources are modest. These high marginal rates, in turn, can determine whether beneficiaries decide to keep working or retire. Research suggests that several policy alternatives are more likely to keep seniors in the workforce and to generate more revenue for the Social Security Trust Fund.
A New Look at Racial Disparities Using a More Comprehensive Wealth Measure
Most research measuring disparities in wealth by race relies on data that exclude resources that are disproportionately important to low-wealth and non-white families, namely defined benefit (DB) pensions and Social Security. This paper finds that once these resources are included, disparities in wealth between white families and Black and Hispanic families are substantially smaller and that they are not rising over time. The powerful equalizing roles of DB pensions and Social Security highlighted here are further motivation for maintaining their fiscal health. This paper also presents ...
Optimal Paternalistic Savings Policies
We study optimal savings policies when there is a dual concern about undersaving for retirement and income inequality. Agents differ in present bias and earnings ability, both unobservable to a planner with paternalistic and redistributive motives. We characterize the solution to this two-dimensional screening problem and provide a decentralization using realistic policy instruments: mandatory savings at low incomes but a choice between subsidized savings vehicles at high incomes?resembling Social Security, 401(k), and IRA accounts in the US. Offering more savings choice at higher incomes ...
Flexible Retirement and Optimal Taxation
This paper studies optimal insurance against private idiosyncratic shocks in a life-cycle model with intensive labor supply and endogenous retirement. In this environment, the optimal labor tax is hump-shaped in age: insurance benefits of taxation push for increasing-in-age taxes while rising labor supply elasticities and optimal late retirement of highly productive workers push for lowering taxes for old workers. In calibrated numerical simulations, the optimum achieves sizable welfare gains that age-dependent taxes do not deliver under the status quo US Social Security. Nevertheless, an ...
A Historical Welfare Analysis of Social Security: Whom Did the Program Benefit?
A well-established result in the literature is that Social Security tends to reduce steady state welfare in a standard life cycle model. However, less is known about the historical effects of the program on agents who were alive when the program was adopted. In a computational life cycle model that simulates the Great Depression and the enactment of Social Security, this paper quantifies the welfare effects of the program's enactment on the cohorts of agents who experienced it. In contrast to the standard steady state results, we find that the adoption of the original Social Security tended ...
Old, sick, alone, and poor: a welfare analysis of old-age social insurance programs
Poor health, large acute and long-term care medical expenses, and spousal death are significant drivers of impoverishment among retirees. We document these facts and build a rich, overlapping generations model that reproduces them. We use the model to assess the incentive and welfare effects of Social Security and means-tested social insurance programs such as Medicaid and food stamp programs, for the aged. We find that U.S. means-tested social insurance programs for retirees provide significant welfare benefits for all newborn. Moreover, when means-tested social insurance benefits are of the ...
How Well Did Social Security Mitigate the Effects of the Great Recession?
This paper quantifies the welfare implications of the U.S. Social Security program during the Great Recession. We find that the average welfare losses due to the Great Recession for agents alive at the time of the shock are notably smaller in an economy with Social Security relative to an economy without a Social Security program. Moreover, Social Security is particularly effective at mitigating the welfare losses for agents who are poorer, less productive, or older at the time of the shock. Importantly, in addition to mitigating the welfare losses for these potentially more vulnerable ...
Decomposing an Economic Impact into Its Local and Spillover Effects
An analysis of cost-of-living increases for Social Security shows a strong direct effect on income within a state where the recipient lives but little evidence of a spillover effect in other states.
Rising disability rolls: causes, effects, and possible cures
Social Security disability insurance began in 1956 as a means of insuring a portion of the earned income of U.S. workers over age 50 against the risk of disability. In 1960, when coverage was extended to all workers, less than half a million workers were collecting benefits, and by 2012 this number had increased to 8.8 million people ? an increase from 0.3 percent to 3.6 percent of the population. Over this period, there have been a number of changes: Initially, the law insured only against permanent disabilities, but in 1965 the definition of disability was expanded to cover impairments ...