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View Research by Author - Gordon Mermin


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Tax Refunds and Affordable Care Act Reconciliation (Research Report)
Leonard E. Burman, Gordon Mermin, Elena Ramirez

People may purchase subsidized health insurance through the ACA exchanges with premiums based on projected future income. However, if actual income is higher than estimated, they may be required to repay part or all of the subsidy when they file tax returns. This “reconciliation” process could raise taxes substantially for many ACA participants. However, analysis of income tax return data suggests that for most lower-income filers, the reconciliation will reduce the refund they receive rather than require them to remit additional tax because their refunds exceed the reconciliation amount. We conclude by making suggestions to improve the reconciliation process.

Posted to Web: April 01, 2015Publication Date: April 01, 2015

Do Health Problems Reduce Consumption at Older Ages? (Series/The Retirement Project Discussion Papers)
Barbara Butrica, Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin

High out-of-pocket health care costs may have serious repercussions for older people and their families. This paper examines the impact of health problems at older ages on out-of-pocket health care spending and other types of expenditures. The results show that medical conditions increase health spending, particularly for households ages 51 to 64, but do not generally reduce nonhealth spending. Health conditions do, however, reduce nonhealth spending for low-income households ages 51 to 64, suggesting that holes in the health safety net before the Medicare eligibility age force some low-income people to lower their living standards to cover medical expenses.

Posted to Web: March 27, 2009Publication Date: March 01, 2009

Financial Hardship before and after Social Security's Eligibility Age (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin

Although poverty rates for Americans age 65 and older have plunged over the past half century, many people continue to fall into poverty as they approach 62, Social Security's early eligibility age. Among those who did not complete high school, hardship rates increase from 23 percent at age 52 to 54 to 31 percent at age 60 to 61, a relative increase of 36 percent. Hardship rates decline after age 62, when most people qualify for Social Security. These findings highlight the fragility of the income support system for Americans in their fifties and early sixties.

Posted to Web: March 24, 2009Publication Date: March 20, 2009

Diversity in Retirement Wealth Accumulation (Policy Briefs/Retirement Project Brief Series)
Gordon Mermin, Desmond Toohey, Sheila R. Zedlewski

Americans save for retirement by building wealth in personal accounts, home equity, pension plans, retirement accounts and Social Security. We use data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) and methods to estimate the wealth values of Social Security and pension plans to show how wealth builds over the life cycle. We find that the typical household accrues wealth throughout the life cycle. Households in the bottom income quintile, those that did not complete high school and minorities accumulate much less wealth than their counterparts, and Social Security accounts for a large share of their preretirement wealth.

Posted to Web: December 17, 2008Publication Date: December 17, 2008

Are There Opportunities to Increase Social Security Progressivity despite Underfunding? (Discussion Papers/Tax Policy Center)
Melissa M. Favreault, Gordon Mermin

This paper reviews why Social Security fails to lift more aged low-wage workers and people of color out of poverty. It examines the payroll tax and benefit formula and reviews literature about OASDI outcomes by race, gender, and earnings level. It describes how mortality, earnings, disability, childbearing, immigration and emigration, and marriage patterns all differ across U.S. racial/ethnic groups, and highlights the importance of these differences for program outcomes. The paper then uses the DYNASIM model to examine lifetime OASDI redistribution under current law and a trust fund-neutral reform package that would enhance system progressivity and improve outcomes for some vulnerable to retirement poverty.

Posted to Web: November 25, 2008Publication Date: November 25, 2008

How Do Disabilities Affect Future Retirement Benefits? (Series/Older Americans' Economic Security)
Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin

One-quarter of workers ages 51 to 55 develop work disabilities before age 62. Disabilities often force people to curtail their work hours, derailing retirement preparations. However, protections built into Social Security, including disability and spouse benefits and the system's tilt toward workers with low lifetime earnings, cushion the impact of midlife health problems. After other factors are controlled for, the onset of health-related work limitations between ages 51 and 61 reduces Social Security retirement benefits at ages 63 to 67 by only about 2 percent, much less than the impact on other retirement savings.

Posted to Web: October 23, 2008Publication Date: October 01, 2008

Will Changing Job Demands Boost Older Workers' Prospects? (Series/Older Americans' Economic Security)
Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin

Employment is now less physically demanding and less likely to entail difficult working conditions than before, a trend that might spur employment at older ages. However, the shift to a knowledge-based economy has increased cognitive demands and placed a premium on mastering the latest technical skills. Between 1971 and 2006 the share of workers in cognitively demanding jobs (requiring such skills as reasoning, writing, and decisionmaking) increased from 25.7 to 34.8 percent. This development may curtail opportunities for older workers with limited education or those who lack recent training.

Posted to Web: September 26, 2008Publication Date: September 01, 2008

Will Employers Want Aging Boomers? (Series/The Retirement Project Discussion Papers)
Gordon Mermin, Richard W. Johnson, Eric Toder

Boomers will probably want to work longer than earlier cohorts, but their continued work requires that employers hire and retain them. Employers value older workers for their maturity, experience and work ethic, but worry about out of date skills and high costs. Slower overall labor supply growth will increase demand for older workers and occupations with higher shares of older workers will increase modestly as a share of all jobs. Future jobs will require less physical demands and more cognitive and interpersonal skills, trends that favor educated older workers, but job opportunities for less educated older workers may remain limited.

Posted to Web: July 23, 2008Publication Date: July 23, 2008

Capitalizing on the Economic Value of Older Adults' Work: An Urban Institute Roundtable (Occasional Paper)
Eric Toder, Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin, Serena Lei

Increasing older people's employment rates could reduce the economic pressures of an aging population, and many older adults say they want to delay retirement. Yet, numerous public policies and private practices continue to encourage early retirement. The Urban Institute, with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, sponsored an October 2007 roundtable to examine the value of older adults' work. Researchers, practitioners, employers, and policymakers discussed the potential supply of and demand for older workers, the benefits of working longer, barriers to continued employment, and policy solutions to encourage work at older ages. This document summarizes the issues and discussion.

Posted to Web: May 13, 2008Publication Date: May 01, 2008

Employment at Older Ages and the Changing Nature of Work (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Gordon Mermin, Matthew Resseger

About 7 percent of American workers held highly physically demanding jobs in 2006, and 35 percent held highly cognitively demanding jobs. The share of the workforce in physically demanding jobs fell by about one-sixth between 1971 and 2006, while the share in cognitively demanding jobs increased by more than one-third. Stressful occupations also grew rapidly over the past 35 years. The decline in physically demanding occupations will likely improve employment prospects for older adults, but the growth in cognitive demands may limit options for some older people, especially those with limited education.

Posted to Web: March 28, 2008Publication Date: November 01, 2007

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