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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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This chapter was published in:
  • Zvi Bodie & John B. Shoven, 1983. "Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number bodi83-1, October.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 6038.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:6038
    Contact details of provider: Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
    Phone: 617-868-3900
    Web page: http://www.nber.orgEmail:


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    1. Michael J. Boskin & Michael D. Hurd, 1982. "Are Inflation Rates Different for the Elderly?," NBER Working Papers 0943, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. 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.
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