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How Effective is Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula?

  • Alan L. Gustman

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

  • Thomas L. Steinmeier

    (Texas Tech University)

This paper uses earnings histories from the Social Security Administration, linked to the survey responses for participants in the Health and Retirement Study, to investigate redistribution under the current social security benefit formula. As advertised, own benefits are significantly redistributed from individuals with high to those with low lifetime earnings. However, redistribution is roughly halved when spouse and survivor benefits are taken into account and redistribution is measured among families. When families are arrayed by total earnings during years when both spouses are engaged in substantial work, there is very little redistribution from families with high to low earnings capacity.

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File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp005.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp005.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2000
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp005
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  1. Panis, C.W.A. & Lillard, L.A., 1996. "Socioeconomic Differentials in the Returns to Social Security," Papers 96-05, RAND - Labor and Population Program.
  2. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2002. "Long-Run Effects of Social Security Reform Proposals on Lifetime Progressivity," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 149-206 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 5912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Patricia M. Anderson & Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1997. "Trends in Male Labor Force Participation And Retirement: Some Evidence On The Role Of Pensions And Social Security In The 1970's And 1980's," NBER Working Papers 6208, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 1999. "Distributional Impacts of Proposed Changes to the Social Security System," NBER Working Papers 6989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Julia Lynn Coronado & Don Fullerton & Thomas Glass, 2000. "The Progressivity of Social Security," NBER Working Papers 7520, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Michael J. Boskin & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Douglas J. Puffert & John B. Shoven, 1987. "Social Security: A Financial Appraisal Across and Within Generations," NBER Working Papers 1891, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. James P. Smith, 2004. "The Distribution of Family Earnings," Labor and Demography 0408010, EconWPA.
  9. 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.
  10. Martin S. Feldstein & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 2002. "The Distributional Effects of an Investment-Based Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: The Distributional Aspects of Social Security and Social Security Reform, pages 263-326 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. 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.
  12. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1999. "What People Don't Know About Their Pensions and Social Security: An Analysis Using Linked Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. George J. Borjas, 1994. "The Economics of Immigration," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 32(4), pages 1667-1717, December.
  14. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1998. "Privatizing Social Security: First-Round Effects of a Generic, Voluntary, Privatized U.S. Social Security System," NBER Chapters, in: Privatizing Social Security, pages 313-361 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Harriet Duleep, 1989. "Measuring socioeconomic mortality differentials over time," Demography, Springer, vol. 26(2), pages 345-351, May.
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