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Retirement and Older Americans

Retired CoupleOur extensive work on retirement policy covers the many ways the aging of America will trigger changes in how we work, retire, and spend federal resources.

The number of Americans age 65 and over will rise from about 13 percent in 2008 to 20 percent by 2040. The recession dealt a heavy blow to retirement accounts, leaving many older adults worried about their retirement security. Read more.

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Aging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison System (Research Report)
KiDeuk Kim, Bryce Peterson

This new Urban Institute study provides an in-depth examination of the growth patterns in the largest correctional system in the United States—the US Bureau of Prisons. The number of prisoners age 50 or older experienced a 330 percent increase from 1994 to 2011. The authors find that the proportion of these older prisoners is expected to have an even steeper growth curve in the near future and they may consume a disproportionately large amount of the federal prison budget. Recommendations for policy and research include expanding data-driven knowledge on older prisoners and developing cost-effective management plans for them.

Posted to Web: September 05, 2014Publication Date: September 05, 2014

Assessing Pension Benefits Paid under Pennsylvania's State Employees' Retirement System (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Pennsylvania’s pension plan for state employees receives a failing grade in the Urban Institute’s state and local pension plan report card, and ranks as the third-worst plan in the nation covering newly hired general state employees. The plan scores poorly because it is inadequately funded, it penalizes work at older ages by reducing lifetime benefits for older employees, and it provides few retirement benefits to short-term employees. Age-25 hires must work 32 years before they accumulate rights to future pension benefits worth more than their required plan contributions. Various pension reforms could distribute benefits more equitably across the workforce.

Posted to Web: September 04, 2014Publication Date: September 04, 2014

Evaluating Retirement Income Security for Illinois Public School Teachers (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

The financial problems afflicting Illinois’s teacher pension plan have grabbed headlines. An equally important problem, though underappreciated, is that relatively few teachers benefit much from the plan. Long-serving teachers receive generous pensions, but only 18 percent of teachers remain employed for at least 25 years. Only 24 percent of those who complete at least five years of service receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Alternative plan designs, such as cash balance plans, could distribute benefits more equitably and put more teachers on a path to a financially secure retirement.

Posted to Web: July 30, 2014Publication Date: July 30, 2014

What Every Worker Needs to Know About an Unreformed Social Security System: Testimony before the Subcommittee on Social Security Committee on Ways and Means, United States House of Representatives (Testimony)
C. Eugene Steuerle

In this testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security, Eugene Steuerle, Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute discusses the fairness, efficiency and adequacy questions that arise almost no matter how much growth Congress maintains in Social Security. In particular he addresses three troubling aspects of an otherwise successful program: unequal justice; middle age retirement; and impact on the young.

Posted to Web: July 29, 2014Publication Date: July 29, 2014

Wealth in America: Policies to Support Mobility (Research Brief)
Signe-Mary McKernan, Caleb Quakenbush, Caroline Ratcliffe, C. Eugene Steuerle

What role can policymakers play in helping families rebuild their balance sheets after the Great Recession and in helping young families, families of color, and those with less education who were falling behind even prior to it? This brief, based on a convening of nearly 25 national wealth-building experts, presents the facts and identifies four promising policy reforms: (1) providing universal children’s savings accounts; (2) reforming the mortgage interest deduction to better target incentives; (3) expanding access to retirement accounts and automatic enrollment; and (4) promoting emergency savings while addressing barriers such as asset tests in safety net programs.

Posted to Web: July 22, 2014Publication Date: July 22, 2014

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