IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

How Does Modeling of Retirement Decisions at the Family Level Affect Estimates of the Impact of Social Security Policies on Retirement?


  • Alan Gustman

    (Dartmouth College and NBER)

  • Thomas Steinmeier

    (Texas Tech University)


This paper applies structural models of retirement and saving of two earner couples to explore the effects on retirement of two actuarially neutral policies, which we know from previous work can have a substantial effect on retirement if heterogeneity in time preference rates is allowed. The main question being investigated here is whether using a model that explicitly incorporates the retirement interactions of two working spouses yields a different evaluation of policies than when a much simpler model that treats the retirement decisions of the second spouse as exogenous is used. The findings indicate that unless the question of interest is specifically related to joint retirement issues, the effects of the two actuarially neutral policies being investigated are roughly equal whichever model is estimated. A second question explored in the paper is whether two earner and one earner households can be combined in the analysis. The effects of policy changes are clearly different for one earner and two earner households, but there is some evidence that the principal difference is due to the differing budget sets of the two groups. Though the estimated preference parameters are significantly different, the critical parameters governing responses to policy changes are similar. As a result, it seems plausible that unless the question being investigated involves looking at these two groups separately, the overall impact of the policy changes may be adequately assessed by combining the two groups, separately identifying them by a dummy variable. A third question involves the magnitude of the effects for these two specific policy changes. Increasing the Social Security early entitlement age from 62 to 64 would reduce the level of retirement for husbands from two earner households by 4.4-4.6 percentage points at age 62, and by 5.1-5.7 percentage points for wives. In contrast, this policy change would induce husbands from one earner households to reduce the level of retirement by 10.2 percentage points at age 62. In a system of personal accounts, offering Social Security benefits as a lump sum instead of as an annuity would increase the level of retirement for husbands from two earner households by 7.1-8.1 percentage points at age 62 and by 8.9 percentage points for husbands in one earner households, and by 2.8-3.2 percentage points for wives in two earner households.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Gustman & Thomas Steinmeier, 2008. "How Does Modeling of Retirement Decisions at the Family Level Affect Estimates of the Impact of Social Security Policies on Retirement?," Working Papers wp179, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp179

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2004. "Personal Accounts and Family Retirement," NBER Working Papers 10305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Donna B. Gilleskie & David M. Blau, 2006. "Health insurance and retirement of married couples," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 21(7), pages 935-953.
    3. Michael D. Hurd, 1990. "The Joint Retirement Decision of Husbands and Wives," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Aging, pages 231-258 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Michaud, Pierre-Carl, 2003. "Joint Labour Supply Dynamics of Older Couples," IZA Discussion Papers 832, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp179. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (MRRC Administrator). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.