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How Effective is Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula?

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Author Info

  • Alan L. Gustman

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

  • Thomas L. Steinmeier

    (Texas Tech University)

Abstract

This paper uses earnings histories from the Social Security Administration, linked to the survey responses for participants in the Health and Retirement Study, to investigate redistribution under the current social security benefit formula. As advertised, own benefits are significantly redistributed from individuals with high to those with low lifetime earnings. However, redistribution is roughly halved when spouse and survivor benefits are taken into account and redistribution is measured among families. When families are arrayed by total earnings during years when both spouses are engaged in substantial work, there is very little redistribution from families with high to low earnings capacity.

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File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp005.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp005.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp005

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  1. Panis, C.W.A. & Lillard, L.A., 1996. "Socioeconomic Differentials in the Returns to Social Security," Papers 96-05, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  2. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security: First-Round Effects of a Generic, Voluntary, Privatized U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 313-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 11-48 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 263-326 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.
  6. Anderson, Patricia M & Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 1999. "Trends in Male Labor Force Participation and Retirement: Some Evidence on the Role of Pensions and Social Security in the 1970s and 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 757-83, October.
  7. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 1999. "Distributional Impacts of Proposed Changes to the Social Security System," NBER Working Papers 6989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  9. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, . "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-3, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
  10. 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.
  11. James P. Smith, 2004. "The Distribution of Family Earnings," Labor and Demography 0408010, EconWPA.
  12. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2000. "Long Run Effects of Social Security Reform Proposals on Lifetime Progressivity," NBER Working Papers 7568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Harriet Duleep, 1989. "Measuring socioeconomic mortality differentials over time," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 345-351, May.
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