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How does Social Security claiming respond to incentives? considering husbands' and wives' benefits separately

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  • Alice M. Henriques
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    Abstract

    A majority of women receive most of their Social Security benefits based upon their husbands' earnings history, but previous research has shown that husbands' benefit claiming is inconsistent with maximizing lifetime benefits for the couple. However, that research assumes husbands choose their claim age based on all Social Security incentives facing the household. I show that husbands' claiming behavior responds to the actuarial incentives built into their own retired worker benefit formula, but not to the incentives built into the spouse and survivor formulas that determine their wives' benefits. This failure to incorporate his spouses' incentives reduces wives' lifetime benefits. Variation in incentives comes from rule changes to the Social Security benefit calculation in addition to the age difference between spouses and the relative strength of the wife's labor force history. A variety of robustness checks looking at segments of the population predicted to be more responsive to incentives provide similar results to the main specification.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2012-19.

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    Date of creation: 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2012-19

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    Cited by:
    1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2013. "Effects of Social Security Policies on Benefit Claiming, Retirement and Saving," NBER Working Papers 19071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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