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Retirement Effects of Proposals by the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security


  • Alan L. Gustman

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

  • Thomas L. Steinmeier

    (Texas Tech University)


This paper simulates the retirement effects of the various elements of proposals made by the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security (CSSS). Simulations are based on a structural dynamic model of retirement and savings estimated with data from the first five waves of the Health and Retirement Study. This model posits lifetime expected utility is constrained by an asset accumulation equation and an uncertain lifetime. Retirement preferences and time preferences are both allowed to be heterogeneous among workers, allowing the model to capture the peaks in retirement at both ages 62 and 65. Simulating over the next 75 years, the model suggests that the trend to earlier retirement, which has only recently been interrupted, should continue. The effect of Commission proposals is to provide individuals with incentives to delay their retirement substantially. The overall effect of these proposals could be enough to offset, or more than offset the trend to earlier retirement. The largest effects on retirement in the Commission proposals comes from a provision in Model 2 which would keep benefits roughly constant in real terms. Compared to current law, which allows benefits to grow with wages, in 2075 years this provision would increase the fraction of those 62 years old at full-time work from 39 percent to 46 percent of the cohort. Indexing benefits to life expectancy, as in Plan 3, would lower the effect to 4 percentage points, about the same effect as allowing the system to continue, and after the trust fund is exhausted, paying benefits proportional to revenue. By 2075 a proposal in the Commission’s Model 3 to reduce benefits of early retirees, but raise the actuarial adjustment for those who postpone retirement past the normal retirement age, would create a 3.4 percentage point increase in full-time work for those 65 years old, increasing the number of 65 year olds working full-time by fifteen percent. Other elements of the proposals, including increasing benefits for low wage workers and reducing benefits for high wage workers, would produce only very modest changes in retirement behavior, even within affected groups.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2003. "Retirement Effects of Proposals by the President’s Commission to Strengthen Social Security," Working Papers wp038, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp038

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Eric French, 2005. "The Effects of Health, Wealth, and Wages on Labour Supply and Retirement Behaviour," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 72(2), pages 395-427.
    2. Roger H. Gordon & Alan S. Blinder, 1980. "Market wages, reservation wages, and retirement decisions," NBER Chapters,in: Econometric Studies in Public Finance, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Lumsdaine, Robin L. & Mitchell, Olivia S., 1999. "New developments in the economic analysis of retirement," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 49, pages 3261-3307 Elsevier.
    4. Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 1985. "The 1983 Social Security Reforms and Labor Supply Adjustments of Older Individuals in the Long Run," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(2), pages 237-253, April.
    5. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2005. "The social security early entitlement age in a structural model of retirement and wealth," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 441-463, February.
    6. Courtney Coile & Jonathan Gruber, 2000. "Social Security and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 7830, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "The New Social Security Commission Personal Accounts: Where is the Investment Principal?," Working Papers wp031, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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    Cited by:

    1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2004. "How to Evaluate the Effects of Social Security Policies on Retirement and Saving When Firm Policies Affect the Opportunities Facing Older Individuals," Working Papers wp078, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    2. Amy Rehder Harris & John Sabelhaus & Almudena Sevilla-Sanz, 2005. "Behavioral Effects of Social Security Reform in a Dynamic Micro-Simulation with Life-Cycle Agents: Working Paper 2005-06," Working Papers 16494, Congressional Budget Office.
    3. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steimeier, 2004. "The Social Security Retirement Earning Test,Retirement and Benefit Claiming," Working Papers wp090, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
    4. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2004. "Minimum Hours Constraints, Job Requirements and Retirement," NBER Working Papers 10876, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Engelhardt, Gary V. & Kumar, Anil, 2005. "Social security personal-account participation with government matching," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(02), pages 155-179, July.
    6. Gaobo Pang & University of Maryland, 2006. "Tax-Deferred Savings and Early Retirement," Computing in Economics and Finance 2006 31, Society for Computational Economics.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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