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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, 07.
  • 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.
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    1. 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.
    2. Jeffrey R. Brown, 1999. "Are the Elderly Really Over-Annuitized? New Evidence on Life Insurance and Bequests," NBER Working Papers 7193, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2001. "Redistribution in the Current U.S. Social Security System," NBER Working Papers 8625, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba & Mark J. Warshawsky, 1997. "New Evidence on the Money's Worth of Individual Annuities," NBER Working Papers 6002, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. 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.
    6. 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.
    7. Wilhelm, Mark O, 1996. "Bequest Behavior and the Effect of Heirs' Earnings: Testing the Altruistic Model of Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 874-92, September.
    8. Orazio P. Attanasio & Hilary Williamson Hoynes, 2000. "Differential Mortality and Wealth Accumulation," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(1), pages 1-29.
    9. Martin Feldstein & Elena Ranguelova & Andrew Samwick, 1999. "The Transition to Investment-Based Social Security when Portfolio Returns and Capital Profitability are Uncertain," NBER Working Papers 7016, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Jeffrey R. Brown & Olivia S. Mitchell & James M. Poterba, . "The Role of Real Annuities and Indexed Bonds In An Individual Accounts Retirement Program," Pension Research Council Working Papers 99-2, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    11. Hurd, Michael D, 1989. "Mortality Risk and Bequests," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 57(4), pages 779-813, July.
    12. Thomas Davidoff & Jeffrey R. Brown & Peter A. Diamond, 2005. "Annuities and Individual Welfare," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(5), pages 1573-1590, December.
    13. Zvi Bodie & James E. Pesando, 1982. "Retirement Annuity Design in an Inflationary Climate," NBER Working Papers 0896, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. 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.
    16. Angus S. Deaton & Christina Paxson, 2001. "Mortality, Education, Income, and Inequality among American Cohorts," NBER Chapters, in: Themes in the Economics of Aging, pages 129-170 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    17. 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.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. 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.
    22. Panis, C.W.A. & Lillard, L.A., 1996. "Socioeconomic Differentials in the Returns to Social Security," Papers 96-05, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
    23. Hurd, Michael D, 1987. "Savings of the Elderly and Desired Bequests," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 298-312, June.
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