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The Effect of Social Security on Retirement in the Early 1970s

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  • Michael D. Hurd
  • Michael J. Boskin

Abstract

Improved understanding of retirement behavior is a key to better understanding of many important economic problems. In as close as we can come to a general "social experiment," real Social Security benefits were increased substantially for the period we study the retirement patterns of a cohort of white males: 28% on average between 1970 and 1972, with the maximum benefit increased by over 50% in real terms between 1968 and 1976. Other important structural changes in the method of computing benefits were also made. Hence, we have extremely detailed longitudinal data on a cohort of people spanning the years of most active retirement behavior (ages 58-67) over a period of abrupt change in the economic incentives surrounding their retirement . We have analyzed these data in a variety of ways to examine the impact of the changes in Social Security, as well as other factors, on retirement probabilities. The most simple to the most sophisticated analyses reveal the same set of inferences: 1. The acceleration in the decline in the labor force participation of elderly men over the period 1969-73 was primarily due to the large increase in real Social Security benefits; our probability equations estimate effects of changes in real benefits combined with the actual changes to predict declines in participation rates virtually identical to actual observed changes from independent data. 2. Social Security wealth interacts with other assets. A substantial fraction of the elderly appear to have few other assets and this group shows a markedly larger propensity to retire early, e.g., at age 62 when Social Security benefits become available. We find strong evidence of this liquidity constraint effect for an important subgroup of the elderly. 3. The magnitude of the induced retirement effect is large enough that if it is ignored in estimating the direct fiscal implications of major changes in benefit provisions, these may be substantially underestimated . 4. We interpret our results in the historical context of a particular cohort undergoing a major, unanticipated transfer of wealth via larger real benefits. We make no attempt to distinguish these from the long- run effects if the system were to remain unchanged for many years or if future changes were readily predictable.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 0659.

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Date of creation: Apr 1981
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Publication status: published as Hurd, Michael D. and Michael J. Boskin. "The Effect of Social Security on Retirement in the Early 1970s." Quarterly Journal of Economics, (November 1984), pp. 767-790.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:0659

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  1. Campbell, Colin D & Campbell, Rosemary G, 1976. "Conflicting Views on the Effect of Old-Age and Survivors Insurance on Retirement," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 14(3), pages 369-88, September.
  2. Alan S. Blinder & Roger H. Gordon & Donald E. Wise, 1980. "Reconsidering the Work Disincentive Effects of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 0562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Andries de Grip & Didier Fouarge & Raymond Montizaan, 2013. "How Sensitive are Individual Retirement Expectations to Raising the Retirement Age?," De Economist, Springer, vol. 161(3), pages 225-251, September.
  2. Momota, Akira, 2003. "A retirement decision in the presence of a social security system," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 73-86, March.
  3. Ferreira, Pedro Cavalcanti Gomes & Santos, Marcelo Rodrigues dos, 2008. "The Effect of Social Security, Demography and Technology on Retirement," Economics Working Papers (Ensaios Economicos da EPGE) 683, FGV/EPGE Escola Brasileira de Economia e Finan├žas, Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil).
  4. Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Technological Changes and Employment of Older Manufacturing Workers in Early Twentieth Century America," NBER Working Papers 14746, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Stock, James H & Wise, David A, 1990. "Pensions, the Option Value of Work, and Retirement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1151-80, September.
  6. Chulhee Lee, 2009. "Labor Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955-2005," NBER Working Papers 14800, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael J. Boskin, 1987. "Concepts and Measures of Federal Deficits and Debt and Their Impact on Economic Activity," NBER Working Papers 2332, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Krueger, Alan B & Pischke, Jorn-Steffen, 1992. "The Effect of Social Security on Labor Supply: A Cohort Analysis of the Notch Generation," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 10(4), pages 412-37, October.
  9. Vere, James P., 2011. "Social Security and elderly labor supply: Evidence from the Health and Retirement Study," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(5), pages 676-686, October.
  10. Clark, Randolph Lee & Anker R, 1989. "Labour force participation rates of older persons: an international comparison," ILO Working Papers 272881, International Labour Organization.
  11. Chulhee Lee, 2010. "Labor-Force Participation of Older Males in Korea: 1955 to 2005," NBER Chapters, in: The Economic Consequences of Demographic Change in East Asia, NBER-EASE Volume 19, pages 281-313 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Tetsuji Yamada & Tadashi Yamada, 1987. "Social Security and Earlier Retirement in Japan: Cross-Sectional Evidence," NBER Working Papers 2442, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Dora L. Costa, 2008. "The Rise of Retirement Among African Americans: Wealth and Social Security Effects," NBER Working Papers 14462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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