Urban InstituteRetirement Policy Center

Social Security

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Validating Longitudinal Earnings in Dynamic Microsimulation Models: The Role of Outliers (Research Report)
Melissa M. Favreault, Owen Haaga

Rapid growth in the earnings of the highest earners over the past 25 years has contributed to strains on Social Security’s finances and made projecting lifetime earnings on a year-by-year basis-already a complicated technical problem-even more challenging. This project uses descriptive techniques and high-quality administrative data matched to household surveys to explore questions about the changing earnings distribution. We describe high earners' characteristics, both at a point in time and over longer periods (from 1983 through 2010). We then evaluate how well SSA's MINT7 model projects inequality in the earnings distribution and the long-term characteristics of earnings paths.

Posted: November 15, 2013Availability: HTML | PDF

Social Security and Medicare Taxes and Benefits over a Lifetime (Fact Sheet / Data at a Glance)
C. Eugene Steuerle, Caleb Quakenbush

These tables update to 2013 previous estimates of the lifetime value of Social Security and Medicare benefits and taxes for typical workers in different generations at various earning levels based on new estimates of the Social Security Actuary. The "lifetime value of taxes" is based upon the value of accumulated taxes, as if those taxes were put into an account that earned a 2 percent real rate of return (that is, 2 percent plus inflation). The "lifetime value of benefits" represents the amount needed in an account (also earning a 2 percent real interest rate) to pay for those benefits. All amounts are presented in constant 2013 dollars.

Posted: November 12, 2013Availability: HTML | PDF

Has Social Security Redistributed to Whites from People of Color? (Research Report)
Caleb Quakenbush, Karen E. Smith, C. Eugene Steuerle

This brief considers how Social Security’s many benefit and tax features have redistributed across groups over time. Using Current Population Survey data from 1970 through 1994 and microsimulation projections from the Urban Institute’s DYNASIM3 model, we find that for many decades, Social Security redistributed from blacks, Hispanics, and other people of color, to whites. These transfers will likely to continue in future decades. Our findings suggest that future reforms that place the burden of Social Security reform solely on younger, more diverse generations may have undesired distributional consequences if the aim of the program is to provide greater relative protections to more vulnerable groups.

Posted: November 07, 2013Availability: HTML | PDF

How Did the Great Recession Affect Social Security Claiming? (Policy Briefs/Retirement Project Brief Series)
Richard W. Johnson, Karen E. Smith, Owen Haaga

Social Security retirement claiming grew in 2009 as unemployment soared. The increase was modest, however, because unemployment growth at older ages was largely offset by growth in the number of older adults choosing to work longer. Half of women and more than half of men now wait until after age 62 to claim their retirement benefits, the largest proportions in decades. The recent increase in Social Security's full retirement age has prompted many retirees to wait at least until they turn 66 years old to begin collecting benefits, as a quarter of men now claim at that age or later.

Posted: July 29, 2013Availability: HTML | PDF

How Do the Changing Labor Supply Behavior and Marriage Patterns of Women Affect Social Security Replacement Rates? (Series/The Retirement Project Discussion Papers)
April Yanyuan Wu, Nadia Karamcheva, Alicia H. Munnell, Patrick Purcell

Using data from the Health and Retirement Study and Modeling Income in the Near Term, this paper examines the impact of the changing lives of women on Social Security replacement rates. Replacement rates have dropped sharply at both the household- and individual-level, and the decline will continue for future retirees. Decomposing the reasons for the overall decline shows that increases in the labor supply and earnings of women explain more than one-third of the change. In contrast, the impact of changing marital patterns is relatively small. Much of the remaining explanation rests with the increased Full Retirement Age and changing claiming behaviors.

Posted: July 29, 2013Availability: HTML | PDF

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