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The Rise of Retirement Among African Americans: Wealth and Social Security Effects

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  • Dora L. Costa

Abstract

I examine the effects of an unearned income transfer on the retirement rates and living arrangements of a very poor population by studying the effects of pensions on the decisions of black Union Army veterans. I find that blacks were 2 to 5 times as responsive as whites to income transfers in their retirement decisions and 6 to 8 times as responsive in their choice of independent living arrangements. I argue that blacks' greater poverty explains their responsiveness to pensions. My findings have implications for understanding racial differences in trends in retirement and independent living. I show that the retirement rates of both blacks and whites rose between 1900 and 1930 but that convergence in black and white rates and in living arrangements only occurred between 1930 and 1950. I argue that income effects from the institution of Social Security explain up to half of the convergence in black-white retirement rates and in living arrangements.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14462.

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Date of creation: Nov 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14462

Note: AG DAE LS PE
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  4. Dora L. Costa, 1999. "A House of Her Own: Old Age Assistance and the Living Arrangements of Older Nonmarried Women," NBER Working Papers 6217, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  16. Erik Hurst & Ming Ching Luoh & Frank P. Stafford, 1998. "The Wealth Dynamics of American Families, 1984-94," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 29(1), pages 267-338.
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  22. Costa, Dora L, 1995. "Pensions and Retirement: Evidence from Union Army Veterans," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 110(2), pages 297-319, May.
  23. de Carvalho Filho, Irineu Evangelista, 2008. "Old-age benefits and retirement decisions of rural elderly in Brazil," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 86(1), pages 129-146, April.
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