Modeling Lifetime Earnings Paths: Hypothetical versus Actual Workers
To assess the distributional effects of social security reform proposals, it is essential to have good information on real-world workers’ lifetime earnings trajectories. Until recently, however, policymakers have relied on hypothetical earnings profiles for policy analysis. We use actual lifetime earnings data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to compare actual workers’ covered earnings profiles to these hypothetical profiles. We show that the hypothetical profiles do not track earnings patterns of current retirees; thus lifetime pay levels are much higher than for most HRS workers. Therefore, using hypothetical profiles could misrepresent benefits paid and taxes collected under such reforms.
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- Cunningham, Christopher R. & Engelhardt, Gary V., 2002. "Federal Tax Policy, Employer Matching, and 401(k) Saving: Evidence from HRS W-2 Records," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 55(3), pages 617-45, September.
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"Are Americans Saving "Optimally" for Retirement?,"
Journal of Political Economy,
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"How Effective is Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula?,"
wp005, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
- Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2001. "How effective is redistribution under the social security benefit formula?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-28, October.
- Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2000. "How Effective is Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula?," NBER Working Papers 7597, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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