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The role of earnings and financial risk in distributional analyses of Social Security reform measures


  • Thomas L. Hungerford

    (Congressional Research Service, Washington, DC)


The Social Security Trustees project that the Social Security program faces longterm financing difficulties. Several proposals that have been offered to shore-up the finances of the Social Security program would create individual retirement accounts funded with part of the payroll tax. The authors of many of these proposals claim that future beneficiaries will be better off under their new system than under the current system. This study examines the consequences of differing earnings patterns and year-to-year differences in asset returns have for Social Security retired worker benefits in three Social Security reform proposals. Incorporating both actual earnings histories and variation in asset returns shows that none of the three individual account plans can always deliver benefits that are higher than payable current-law benefits. © 2006 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas L. Hungerford, 2006. "The role of earnings and financial risk in distributional analyses of Social Security reform measures," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(2), pages 417-438.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:jpamgt:v:25:y:2006:i:2:p:417-438 DOI: 10.1002/pam.20179

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Angus S. Deaton & Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas & Christina Paxson, 2002. "Social Security and Inequality over the Life Cycle," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 115-148 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gary Burtless, 2003. "What Do We Know About the Risk of Individual Account Pensions? Evidence from Industrial Countries," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(2), pages 354-359, May.
    3. Andrew Au & Olivia S. Mitchell & John W. R. Phillips, 2004. "Modeling Lifetime Earnings Paths: Hypothetical versus Actual Workers," Working Papers wp074, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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