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The Impact of the 1972 Social Security Benefit Increase on Household Consumption

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  • Melvin Stephens Jr.

    (Carnegie Mellon University and NBER)

Abstract

This paper examines the consumption response to the 1972 Social Security benefit increase. Nominal benefits were increased by 20 percent while annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) were contemporaneously implemented and scheduled to begin in less than three years. Taken in isolation, this benefit increase could be viewed as a large and permanent increase in real Social Security benefits. However, the prevailing high rates of inflation that were the impetus for the COLA legislation may have caused households to view the permanent real benefit increase to be substantially less than 20 percent. Using data from the 1972-73 Survey of Consumer Expenditures, the results provide a mixed picture of the consumption impact of the benefit increase. Strictly nondurable consumption increases significantly at the time of the benefit increase. However, this increase does not persist. Furthermore, the likelihood of making any purchases from an array of durable good categories does not change throughout this period.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp095.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp095

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  1. Stephen P. Zeldes, . "Consumption and Liquidity Constraints: An Empirical Investigation," Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research Working Papers 16-88, Wharton School Rodney L. White Center for Financial Research.
  2. David W. Wilcox, 1987. "Social security benefits, consumption expenditure, and the life cycle hypothesis," Working Paper Series / Economic Activity Section 78, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  3. Lusardi, Annamaria, 1996. "Permanent Income, Current Income, and Consumption: Evidence from Two Panel Data Sets," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 14(1), pages 81-90, January.
  4. Burtless, Gary, 1986. "Social Security, Unanticipated Benefit Increases, and the Timing of Retirement," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(5), pages 781-805, October.
  5. Richard Blundell & Thomas MaCurdy, 1998. "Labour supply: a review of alternative approaches," IFS Working Papers W98/18, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  6. Gary V. Engelhardt & Jonathan Gruber, 2004. "Social Security and the Evolution of Elderly Poverty," NBER Working Papers 10466, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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