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How Did the Elimination of the Earnings Test Above the Normal Retirement Age Affect Retirement Expectations?

  • Pierre-Carl Michaud


  • Arthur vanSoest

    (RAND & Tilburg University)

This study examines the effect of the 2000 repeal of the earnings test above the normal retirement age on retirement expectations of workers aged 51 to 61 - their probabilities to work past age 62 and 65 as well as the age at which they expect to start claiming old age social security benefits. We use administrative records linked to the HRS to create variables that accurately reflect the change in financial incentives. For men, we find results in line with theoretical predictions on the probability to work after age 65. For example, men whose marginal wage rate increased when the earnings test was repealed, showed the largest increase in the probability to work full-time past normal retirement age. For women, we do not find significant results, possibly due to omitting spouse benefits and their interaction with the earnings test. We also do not find significant evidence of effects of the repeal of the earnings test on the probability to work past age 62 or the expected claiming age. On the other hand, for those reaching the normal retirement age, deviations between the age at which Social Security benefits are actually claimed and the previously reported expected age are more negative in 2000 than in 1998, suggesting that the repeal has increased claiming immediately after reaching normal retirement age. Since our calculations show that the tax introduced by the earnings test was small when accounting for actuarial benefit adjustments and differential mortality, our results suggest that although workers form expectations in a way consistent with forward-looking behavior, they misperceive the complicated rules of the earnings test.

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Paper provided by University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center in its series Working Papers with number wp135.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Oct 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp135
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  1. Charles F. Manski, 2004. "Measuring Expectations," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 72(5), pages 1329-1376, 09.
  2. Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2006. "The Social Security Earnings Test Removal. Money Saved or Money Spent by the Trust Fund?," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 25, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  3. Honore, Bo E, 1992. "Trimmed LAD and Least Squares Estimation of Truncated and Censored Regression Models with Fixed Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(3), pages 533-65, May.
  4. 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 755-73, December.
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  10. Hugo Benítez-Silva & Debra S. Dwyer, 2005. "The Rationality of Retirement Expectations and the Role of New Information," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 87(3), pages 587-592, August.
  11. Li Gan & Michael D. Hurd & Daniel L. McFadden, 2005. "Individual Subjective Survival Curves," NBER Chapters, in: Analyses in the Economics of Aging, pages 377-412 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. B. Douglas Bernheim, 1989. "The Timing of Retirement: A Comparison of Expectations and Realizations," NBER Chapters, in: The Economics of Aging, pages 335-358 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Chan, Sewin & Stevens, Ann Huff, 2004. "Do changes in pension incentives affect retirement? A longitudinal study of subjective retirement expectations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(7-8), pages 1307-1333, July.
  14. Bo Honoré & Søren Leth-Petersen, 2006. "Estimation of Panel Data Models with Two-sided Censoring," CAM Working Papers 2006-14, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Applied Microeconometrics.
  15. Richard Disney & Sarah Tanner, 1999. "What can we learn from retirement expectations data?," IFS Working Papers W99/17, Institute for Fiscal Studies.
  16. Adeline Delavande & Susann Rohwedder, 2008. "Differential Mortality in Europe and the U.S.: Estimates Based on Subjective Probabilities of Survival," Working Papers 613, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  17. Jonathan Gruber & Peter Orszag, 2000. "Does the Social Security Earnings Test Affect Labor Supply and Benefits Receipt?," NBER Working Papers 7923, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  18. David S. Loughran & Steven Haider, 2007. "Do the Elderly Respond to Taxes on Earnings? Evidence from the Social Security Retirement Earnings Test," Working Papers 223-1, RAND Corporation Publications Department.
  19. Hugo Benitez-Silva & Frank Heiland, 2006. "The Social Security Earnings Test Revisited: Information, Distortions, and Costs," Department of Economics Working Papers 06-04, Stony Brook University, Department of Economics.
  20. Steven Haider & Mel StephensJr., 2006. "How Accurate are Expected Retirement Savings?," Working Papers wp128, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
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