Brief How Progressive Is Social Security and Why?
C. Eugene Steuerle, Adam Carasso, Lee Cohen
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Social Security was designed to redistribute income from those with higher lifetime earnings to those with lower lifetime earnings. The reason is obvious: the system was created to ensure an adequate retirement income for the elderly. Less obvious is how Social Security's many provisions interact to achieve redistribution. This Straight Talk summarizes the most comprehensive study of those interactions to date, concluding that less-educated, lower-income, and nonwhite groups benefit little or not at all from redistribution in the old age and survivors insurance (OASI) part of Social Security. However, there is substantial redistribution to women, who historically have had lower lifetime earnings than men.

Research Areas Economic mobility and inequality Health and health care Aging and retirement Race and equity Taxes and budgets
Tags Social Security Disability and long-term care Racial and ethnic disparities Individual taxes Federal budget and economy Women and girls Men and boys Income and wealth distribution Retirement policy Racial inequities in economic mobility Racial inequities in health Racial wealth gap Disability equity policy