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How effective is redistribution under the social security benefit formula?

  • Gustman, Alan L.
  • Steinmeier, Thomas L.

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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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 82 (2001)
Issue (Month): 1 (October)
Pages: 1-28

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:82:y:2001:i:1:p:1-28
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  1. Jeffrey B Liebman, 2002. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," Working Papers 02-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Social Security," NBER Working Papers 8451, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    • 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.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 5912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2002. "Long-Run Effects of Social Security Reform Proposals on Lifetime Progressivity," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 149-206 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  6. Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey Liebman, 2000. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Working Papers 7492, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1999. "What People Don't Know About Their Pensions and Social Security: An Analysis Using Linked Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 1999. "Distributional Impacts of Proposed Changes to the Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 149-186 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Panis, C.W.A. & Lillard, L.A., 1996. "Socioeconomic Differentials in the Returns to Social Security," Papers 96-05, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  10. Harriet Duleep, 1989. "Measuring socioeconomic mortality differentials over time," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 345-351, May.
  11. James P. Smith, 2004. "The Distribution of Family Earnings," Labor and Demography 0408010, EconWPA.
  12. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2000. "The Progressivity of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 7520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  14. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1995. "Privatizing Social Security: First Round Effects of a Generic, VoluntaryPrivatized U.S. Social Security System," NBER Working Papers 5362, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. 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.
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