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Differential Mortality and the Value of Individual Account Retirement Annuities

In: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform

  • Jeffrey Brown

This paper examines the extent of redistribution that would occur under various annuity and bequest options as part of an individual accounts retirement program. I first estimate mortality differentials by gender, race, ethnicity and level of education using the National Longitudinal Mortality Study and document substantial differences. I then use these estimates to examine the expected transfers' that would take place between socioeconomic groups under different assumptions about the structure of an annuity program. Using an expected present discounted value or money's worth' calculation as the basis for comparison, I find that the size of transfers in an individual accounts program is highly sensitive to the benefit structure. For example, mandating a single-life, real annuity can result in expected transfers of as high as 20% of the account balance, often from economically disadvantaged groups toward groups that are better off. These transfers can be substantially reduced through the use of joint life annuities, survivor provisions and bequest options. For example, the largest expected negative transfer under a joint and full survivor annuity with a fully valued 20-year guarantee option is only 2% of the account balance. However, efforts to reduce the extent of redistribution generally do so at the cost of significantly lower annuity benefits paid to the individuals who contribute to the system.

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This chapter was published in:
  • Martin Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number feld02-1, Abril.
  • This item is provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Chapters with number 9756.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberch:9756
    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.org
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    1. Jeffrey Brown, 2001. "Are the Elderly Really Over-Annuitized? New Evidence on Life Insurance and Bequests," NBER Chapters, in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 91-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Wilhelm, M.O., 1990. "Bequest Behavior And The Effect Of Heirs' Earnings: Testing The Altruistic Model Of Bequests," Papers 9-90-12, Pennsylvania State - Department of Economics.
    3. Bernheim, B Douglas, 1991. "How Strong Are Bequest Motives? Evidence Based on Estimates of the Demand for Life Insurance and Annuities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 99(5), pages 899-927, October.
    4. Laitner, John & Juster, F Thomas, 1996. "New Evidence on Altruism: A Study of TIAA-CREF Retirees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 893-908, September.
    5. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, . "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-9, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    6. Amy Finkelstein & James Poterba, 1999. "Selection Effects in the Market for Individual Annuities: New Evidence from the United Kingdom," NBER Working Papers 7168, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Hurd, Michael D, 1989. "Mortality Risk and Bequests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 779-813, July.
    8. 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.
    9. Hurd, Michael D, 1987. "Savings of the Elderly and Desired Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 298-312, June.
    10. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 2001. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security When Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability Are Uncertain," NBER Chapters, in: Risk Aspects of Investment-Based Social Security Reform, pages 41-90 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Angus Deaton & Christina Paxson, 1999. "Mortality, education, income and inequality among American cohorts," Working Papers 279, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Health and Wellbeing..
    12. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, 1999. "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds in an Individual Accounts Retirement Program," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 99-18, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
    13. James P. Smith, 1999. "Healthy Bodies and Thick Wallets: The Dual Relation between Health and Economic Status," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 13(2), pages 145-166, Spring.
    14. Samuel Preston & Irma Elo & Ira Rosenwaike & Mark Hill, 1996. "African-american mortality at older ages: Results of a matching study," Demography, Springer, vol. 33(2), pages 193-209, May.
    15. O. Attanasio & H. W. Hoynes, . "Differential mortality and wealth accumulation," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1079-96, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
    16. Samwick, Andrew A., 1999. "Social Security Reform in the United States," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 52(n. 4), pages 819-42, December.
    17. Brown, Jeffrey R., 2001. "Private pensions, mortality risk, and the decision to annuitize," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 29-62, October.
    18. Panis, C.W.A. & Lillard, L.A., 1996. "Socioeconomic Differentials in the Returns to Social Security," Papers 96-05, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
    19. Zvi Bodie & James E. Pesando, 1983. "Retirement Annuity Design in an Inflationary Climate," NBER Chapters, in: Financial Aspects of the United States Pension System, pages 291-324 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    20. 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.
    21. 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 457-75, July.
    22. Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Jeffrey Sachs, 1998. "The personal security system: a framework for reforming Social Security," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Mar, pages 11-13.
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