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Distributional Impacts of Proposed Changes to the Social Security System

In: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13

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  • Julia Lynn Coronado
  • Don Fullerton
  • Thomas Glass

Abstract

In this paper we assess the degree to which the current social security system redistributes income from rich to poor. We then estimate the impact of various proposed changes to social security on the overall redistributive effect of the system. Our analysis takes a steady state approach in which we assume participants work their entire lives and retire under a given system. Redistribution is measured on a lifetime basis using estimated earnings profiles for a sample of people taken from the PSID. We account for differential mortality, not only by gender and race, but also be lifetime income. Our results indicate that the current social security system redistributes less than is generally perceived, mainly because people with higher lifetime income live longer and therefore draw benefits longer. Remaining progressivity is reduced and even reversed by an increase in the assumed discount rate, since regressive taxes become more important relative to later progressive benefits. We find that many of the proposed changes to social security have surprising little effect on the redistribution inherent in the system.
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Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:10924
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Burkhauser, Richard V & Warlick, Jennifer L, 1981. "Disentangling the Annuity from the Redistributive Aspects of Social Security in the United States," Review of Income and Wealth, International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, vol. 27(4), pages 401-421, December.
    2. Garrett, Daniel M, 1995. "The Effects of Differential Mortality Rates on the Progressivity of Social Security," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 33(3), pages 457-475, July.
    3. Coronado Julia Lynn & Fullerton Don & Glass Thomas, 2011. "The Progressivity of Social Security," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-45, November.
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    6. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2002. "Social Security's Treatment of Postwar Americans. How Bad Can It Get?," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 207-262 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Julie Lee & Mark McClellan & Jonathan Skinner, 1999. "The Distributional Effects of Medicare," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 85-108 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    9. Steven Caldwell & Melissa Favreault & Alla Gantman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Thomas Johnson & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1999. "Social Security's Treatment of Postwar Americans," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 109-148 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Boskin, Michael J. & Kotlikoff, Lawrence J. & Puffert, Douglas J. & Shoven, John B., 1986. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," CEPR Publications 244432, Stanford University, Center for Economic Policy Research.
    11. Kotlikoff, Laurence J & Smetters, Kent A & Walliser, Jan, 1998. "Social Security: Privatization and Progressivity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 137-141, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gilles Le Garrec, 2015. "Increased longevity and social security reform: questioning the optimality of individual accounts when education matters," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(2), pages 329-352, April.
    2. Jagadeesh Gokhale & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 2002. "Social Security's Treatment of Postwar Americans. How Bad Can It Get?," NBER Chapters,in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 207-262 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. repec:spo:wpecon:info:hdl:2441/eu4vqp9ompqllr09hi6860cc6 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Estelle James & Alejandra Cox Edwards & Rebeca Wong, 2012. "The Gender Impact of Pension Reform," World Bank Other Operational Studies 13046, The World Bank.
    5. Gilles Le Garrec & Stéphane Lhuissier, 2011. "Life expectancy, heavy work and the return to education: lessons for the social security reform," Working Papers hal-01069511, HAL.
    6. Wade D. Pfau, 2009. "How Representative are Representative Workers? An Assessment of the Hypothetical Workers Commonly Used in Social Security Studies," Journal of Income Distribution, Ad libros publications inc., vol. 18(2), pages 92-117, June.
    7. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2001. "How effective is redistribution under the social security benefit formula?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-28, October.
    8. Steven Caldwell & Melissa Favreault & Alla Gantman & Jagadeesh Gokhale & Thomas Johnson & Laurence J. Kotlikoff, 1999. "Social Security's Treatment of Postwar Americans," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 109-148 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Thomas F. Crossley & Yuri Ostrovsky, 2003. "A Synthetic Cohort Analysis of Canadian Housing Careers," Social and Economic Dimensions of an Aging Population Research Papers 107, McMaster University.
    10. Gilles Le Garrec & Stéphane Lhuissier, 2011. "Life expectancy, heavy work and return to education ; lessons for the social security reform," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2011-18, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    11. Gilles Le Garrec, 2005. "Systèmes de retraite et vieillissement," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2005-21, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    12. Gilles Le Garrec, 2012. "Social security and growth in an aging economy : the case of acturial fairness," Sciences Po publications 2012-18, Sciences Po.
    13. 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.
    14. Coronado Julia Lynn & Fullerton Don & Glass Thomas, 2011. "The Progressivity of Social Security," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-45, November.
    15. 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.
    16. Gilles Le Garrec, 2012. "Social security and growth in an aging economy : the case of acturial fairness," Working Papers hal-01070354, HAL.
    17. Ayfer Karayel, 2006. "The intragenerationally redistributive effects of the retirement insurance scheme in Turkey before and after the 1999 reform," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(4), pages 441-448.
    18. Gilles Le Garrec, 2005. "Social security, inequality and growth," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2005-22, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    19. Johnson, Richard W., 1999. "Distributional Implications of Social Security Reform for the Elderly: The Impact of Revising COLAs, the Normal Retirement Age, and the Taxation of Benefits," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 3), pages 505-30, September.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty

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