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The Progressivity of Social Security

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Author Info

  • Coronado Julia Lynn

    ()
    (BNP Paribas)

  • Fullerton Don

    ()
    (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

  • Glass Thomas

    ()
    (Glass & Company Certified Public Accountants, P.C.)

Abstract

How much does the current social security system redistribute from rich to poor? We propose alternative concepts of well-being that can be used to classify individuals from rich to poor, and we show how social security redistributes differently under each concept. We use the PSID to estimate lifetime wage profiles and actual earnings each year for a sample of 1778 individuals, and we use mortality probabilities to calculate expected payroll taxes and social security benefits. For a given set of “facts” about the net flows experienced each year by each individual, measured progressivity depends on many assumptions. This paper attempts to capture and to quantify all of the data and characteristics relevant to determine each individual’s “income” under several definitions. We then use each definition of income to classify individuals from rich to poor and to calculate the progressivity of social security.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by De Gruyter in its journal The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.

Volume (Year): 11 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (November)
Pages: 1-45

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Handle: RePEc:bpj:bejeap:v:11:y:2011:i:1:n:70

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  1. John Geanakoplos & Olivia S. Mitchell & Stephen P. Zeldes, 1998. "Social Security Money's Worth," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1193, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  2. Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1985. "The Distributional Impact of Social Security," NBER Chapters, in: Pensions, Labor, and Individual Choice, pages 193-222 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Olivia S. Mitchell, 1999. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1299-1318, December.
  4. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 1999. "Distributional Impacts of Proposed Changes to the Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, volume 13, pages 149-186 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Feldstein, Martin & Liebman, Jeffrey B., 2002. "Social security," Handbook of Public Economics, in: A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (ed.), Handbook of Public Economics, edition 1, volume 4, chapter 32, pages 2245-2324 Elsevier.
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  7. Burkhauser, Richard V & Warlick, Jennifer L, 1981. "Disentangling the Annuity from the Redistributive Aspects of Social Security in the United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 27(4), pages 401-21, December.
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  11. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2000. "How Effective is Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula?," Working Papers wp005, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  12. Charles Blackorby & David Donaldson, 1984. "Ethical Social Index Numbers and the Measurement of Effective Tax-Benefit Progressivity," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 17(4), pages 683-94, November.
  13. Suits, Daniel B, 1977. "Measurement of Tax Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(4), pages 747-52, September.
  14. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Steven Caldwell & Melissa Favreault & Alla Gantman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Thomas Johnson, 1998. "Social Security's Treatment of Postwar Americans," NBER Working Papers 6603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1987. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  17. Garrett, Daniel M, 1995. "The Effects of Differential Mortality Rates on the Progressivity of Social Security," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 457-75, July.
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  19. Nelissen, Jan H. M., 1998. "Annual versus lifetime income redistribution by social security," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(2), pages 223-249, May.
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