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The Economic Status of the Elderly

In: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System


  • Michael D. Hurd
  • John B. Shoven


In the first part of the paper using official data sources, we estimate the real income of the elderly and of the rest of the population during the 1570s. We find that income per household of the elderly has increased more rapidly than income per household of the rest of the population, even though the elderly's fraction of income from work decreased greatly. In the rest of the paper we use the 1969 and 1975 Retirement History Surveys to estimate income, wealth and inflation vulnerability of households whose heads were ages 58 through 63 in 1969. The income data verified the results from the official data. The 1969 wealth data show that a representative person on the eve of retirement has small holdings of financial assets: most of the assets are in housing, Social Security and Medicare. Between 1969 and 1975 real wealth increased slightly on average. There was some tendency for the distribution to tighten. We found that contrary to popular opinion, on average the elderly are not especially vulnerable to a sudden increase in either prices or the rate of inflation. Most of their assets are inflation protected. The wealthy are most vulnerable to inflation.
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Suggested Citation

  • Michael D. Hurd & John B. Shoven, 1983. "The Economic Status of the Elderly," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 359-398 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6038

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Benjamin A. Okner, 1975. "Individual Taxes and the Distribution of Income," NBER Chapters,in: The Personal Distribution of Income and Wealth, pages 45-74 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Michael J. Boskin & Michael D. Hurd, 1982. "Are Inflation Rates Different for the Elderly?," NBER Working Papers 0943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Clark, Robert L & Kreps, Juanita & Spengler, Joseph J, 1978. "Economics of Aging: A Survey," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 919-962, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Steven F. Venti & David A. Wise, 1990. "Have IRAs Increased U. S. Saving?: Evidence from Consumer Expenditure Surveys," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 105(3), pages 661-698.
    2. Kathleen M. McGarry & Andrew Davenport, 1998. "Pensions and the Distribution of Wealth," NBER Chapters,in: Frontiers in the Economics of Aging, pages 463-486 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1984. "Consumption during Retirement: The Missing Link in the Life Cycle," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 66(1), pages 1-7, February.
    4. Michael J. Boskin & John B. Shoven, 1984. "Concepts and Measures of Earnings Replacement During Retirement," NBER Working Papers 1360, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Lawrence H. Summers, 1983. "Observations on the Indexation of Old Age Pensions," NBER Chapters,in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 231-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Stock, James H & Wise, David A, 1990. "Pensions, the Option Value of Work, and Retirement," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 58(5), pages 1151-1180, September.
    7. Michael D. Hurd & David A. Wise, 1989. "The Wealth and Poverty of Widows: Assets Before and After the Husband's Death," NBER Chapters,in: The Economics of Aging, pages 177-200 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Michael J. Boskin & John B. Shoven, 1986. "Poverty Among the Elderly: Where are the Holes in the Safety Net?," NBER Working Papers 1923, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. Naohiro Yashiro, 2001. "Policy implications of demographic change: panel discussion: social implications of demographic change in Japan," Conference Series ; [Proceedings], Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, vol. 46, pages 297-304.
    10. Michael D. Hurd, 1987. "The Marginal Value of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 2411, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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