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How Do the Changing Labor Supply Behavior and Marriage Patterns of Women Affect Social Security Replacement Rates?


  • April Yanyuan Wu
  • Nadia S. Karamcheva
  • Alicia H. Munnell
  • Patrick Purcell


This paper seeks to determine the impact of the changing lives of women – increased labor force participation/earnings and reduced marriage rates – on Social Security replacement rates. First, our estimates, based on the Health and Retirement Study and Modeling Income in the Near Term, show that Social Security replacement rates have dropped sharply at both the household- and individual-level, and the decline will continue for future retirees. Our second finding is that this aggregate change masks a complex relationship between replacement rates and the marital status and income levels of individuals. The decline in replacement rates over time is largest for married couples with husbands whose earnings are in the top tercile. Decomposing the reasons for the overall decline shows that increases in the labor supply and earnings of women explain more than one-third of the change. In contrast, the impact of changing marital patterns is relatively small. Much of the remaining explanation rests with the increased Full Retirement Age and changing claiming behaviors.

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  • April Yanyuan Wu & Nadia S. Karamcheva & Alicia H. Munnell & Patrick Purcell, 2013. "How Do the Changing Labor Supply Behavior and Marriage Patterns of Women Affect Social Security Replacement Rates?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2013-16, Center for Retirement Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2013-16

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Leora Friedberg & Michael Owyang & Anthony Webb, 2008. "Identifying Local Differences in Retirement Patterns," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2008-18, Center for Retirement Research, revised Dec 2008.
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    5. Melissa M. Favreault & Austin Nichols, 2011. "Immigrant Diversity and Social Security: Recent Patterns and Future Prospects," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2011-8, Center for Retirement Research, revised May 2011.
    6. John L. Czajka & James Mabli & Scott Cody, "undated". "Sample Loss and Survey Bias in Estimates of Social Security Beneficiaries: A Tale of Two Surveys," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 764acc7a0a0b462c9906514d5, Mathematica Policy Research.
    7. Richard W. Johnson, 2007. "What Happens to Health Benefits after Retirement?," Work Opportunity Briefs wob_7, Center for Retirement Research, revised Feb 2007.
    8. Tammy Schirle, 2008. "Why Have the Labor Force Participation Rates of Older Men Increased since the Mid-1990s?," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 26(4), pages 549-594, October.
    9. Gordon B. T. Mermin & Richard W. Johnson & Dan P. Murphy, 2007. "Why Do Boomers Plan to Work Longer?," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 62(5), pages 286-294.
    10. Coile, Courtney & Diamond, Peter & Gruber, Jonathan & Jousten, Alain, 2002. "Delays in claiming social security benefits," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 357-385, June.
    11. repec:mpr:mprres:6064 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Gruber, Jonathan & Orszag, Peter, 2003. "Does the Social Security Earnings Test Affect Labor Supply and Benefits Receipt?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 755-773, December.
    13. Rogowski, Jeannette & Karoly, Lynn, 2000. "Health insurance and retirement behavior: evidence from the health and retirement survey," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 529-539, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maria D. Fitzpatrick, 2014. "Intergovernmental (Dis)incentives, Free-Riding, Teacher Salaries and Teacher Pensions," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 15-220, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    2. Karamcheva, Nadia S. & Sanzenbacher, Geoffrey, 2014. "Bridging the gap in pension participation: how much can universal tax-deferred pension coverage hope to achieve?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(04), pages 439-459, October.
    3. Matthew S. Rutledge & John E. Lindner, 2016. "Do Late-Career Wages Boost Social Security More For Women Than Men?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2016-13, Center for Retirement Research.
    4. Fitzpatrick, Maria D., 2017. "Pension-spiking, free-riding, and the effects of pension reform on teachers' earnings," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 148(C), pages 57-74.

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