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Economic Well-Being

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How Pension Reforms Neglect States' Recruitment and Retention Goals (Policy Briefs)
Richard W. Johnson, C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

To control rising pension costs, many states are reducing the generosity of the retirement plans they offer their employees, partly by increasing required employee contributions. These reforms, however, ignore the employee recruitment and retention problems created by traditional pension plans. Using New Jersey as a case study, this brief shows how state retirement plans discourage younger workers from joining the state's workforce, lock in middle-aged workers even if a job is not a good fit, and push older workers into retirement. Recent reforms make these plans even less appealing to a modern, mobile workforce.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

State Pension Reforms: Are New Workers Paying for Past Mistakes? (Policy Briefs)
Richard W. Johnson, C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

When state pension plans are underfunded, someone eventually has to pay for the shortfall. Many recent reforms designed to improve plan finances shift burdens to the young, particularly by making many new employees net contributors to—rather than beneficiaries of—these plans. Using New Jersey as a case study, this brief shows how states require higher levels of employee contributions, invest them in somewhat risky assets, and then, like a bank or financial intermediary, pay back many employees less in benefits than what they contributed and expected to earn on those contributions.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

Young and Mobile? State Pensions May Not Be an Appealing Match (Press Release)
Urban Institute

Twenty-somethings fresh out of college or graduate school may need to rethink starting jobs in state government, cautions a report from the Urban Institute's Program on Retirement Policy. The new recruits could end up paying for their state’s unfunded pension liabilities without much to show for their efforts.

Posted to Web: July 16, 2012Publication Date: July 16, 2012

Economic Insecurity Across the American States: New State Estimates from the Economic Security Index (Research Report)
Austin Nichols, Additional Authors

Nearly every state has experienced record economic insecurity recently, measured by the Economic Security Index (ESI) as the percentage of people losing more than a quarter of their available income from one year to the next without sufficient liquid wealth to offset the loss. More than one in six in New Hampshire (lowest), and nearly one in four in Mississippi (highest), suffered large losses between 2009 and 2010. All states experienced a substantial rise in insecurity between 1986 and 2010. The insecurity rank of states changed little over the 1986-2010 period--state differences in insecurity appear to be persistent.

Posted to Web: June 21, 2012Publication Date: June 21, 2012

Age Disparities in Unemployment and Reemployment During the Great Recession and Recovery (Policy Briefs/Unemployment and Recovery)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica

As unemployment surged during the Great Recession and subsequent recovery, older workers were less likely than their younger counterparts to lose their jobs. However, unemployed workers in their fifties were about a fifth less likely than those age 25 to 34 to become reemployed between 2008 and 2011, and they experienced steep wage losses. Median hourly earnings for reemployed workers age 51 to 61 were 21 percent lower on the new job than the prelayoff job, compared with only 7 percent for those age 25 to 34. These declines may reflect lost productivity or employer reluctance to hire older workers.

Posted to Web: May 15, 2012Publication Date: May 15, 2012

Field-Building Research Agendas: Critical Issues in Housing and Urban Policy, Executive Summary (Series/What Works Collaborative)
Margery Austin Turner

The What Works Collaborative is a foundation-supported partnership that conducts timely research and analysis to help inform an evidence-based housing and urban policy agenda. In its latest effort, the Collaborative engaged with experts to identify unanswered questions critical to policy development, and from this derive "field-building" research agendas. These agendas are intended to help guide investments that will inform and advance policy and practice over the next three to five years on five broad policy domains: housing as a platform for overcoming social and economic distress, housing markets, housing finance, successful neighborhoods, and the physical landscape of the next American economy. This summary is part of a series of field-building research agendas produced under the What Works Collaborative. More information can be found on the What Works Collaborative web page.

Posted to Web: May 07, 2012Publication Date: May 07, 2012

Housing as a Platform for Improving Outcomes for Older Renters (Series/What Works Collaborative)
Brenda Spillman, Jennifer Biess, Graham MacDonald

This policy framing paper is one of three that explores the potential for housing combined with support services to create better outcomes for vulnerable populations. The aging of the U.S. population will have profound implications for society, the economy, and the health care system. This paper focuses on mitigating the impacts on low-income older renters and on how housing can provide a platform for supporting their independence and well-being. The authors establish a theoretical basis and empirical evidence that shows a link between favorable housing and positive life outcomes. They propose research that can inform policymakers and practitioners in meeting the housing and service needs of this at-risk group. This framing paper is part of a series of field-building research agendas produced under the What Works Collaborative. More information can be found on the What Works Collaborative web page

Posted to Web: May 07, 2012Publication Date: May 07, 2012

The Two Worlds of Personal Finance: Implications for promoting the Economic Well-Being of Low- and Moderate-Income Families (Presentation)
Robert I. Lerman, C. Eugene Steuerle

There are two worlds of personal finance: mainstream vs. low-income personal finance. The former focuses on savings and investment, the latter (for those with low or moderate incomes) on asset building and benefits, such as Social Security. Current pension and housing subsidies are weighted toward higher-income people, and may even discourage saving among the less well off. Many low- and middle-income households do not receive financial advice on when to retire, how to arrange Social Security benefits, and homeownership, despite these being their most important retirement decisions.

Posted to Web: April 10, 2012Publication Date: May 23, 2011

Retirement Account Balances (Updated 4/12) (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
Barbara Butrica, Philip Issa

The retirement savings of American households took a big hit when the stock market crashed in 2008. Recently, however, a good portion of these losses has been reversed. This fact sheet follows trends in retirement account balances since the beginning of 2005.

Posted to Web: April 06, 2012Publication Date: April 06, 2012

Social Security Claiming: Trends and Business Cycle Effects (Discussion Papers)
Owen Haaga, Richard W. Johnson

Social Security claiming behavior matters because early claimants receive lower monthly benefits for the rest of their lives. Early claiming fell over the past decade, after increasing over the previous 10 years. However, high unemployment encourages early claiming by less-educated men. A 1 percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate is associated with a 0.4 percentage point increase in the monthly claiming probability by men who never attended college, implying that the Great Recession boosted their claiming rates by about 40 percent. In contrast, claiming behavior by women and well-educated men is not significantly correlated with the unemployment rate.

Posted to Web: March 12, 2012Publication Date: March 01, 2012

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