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Does Retirement Induced through Social Security Pension Eligibility Influence Subjective Well-being? A Cross-Country Comparison


  • Arie Kapteyn

    (University of Southern California, Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research)

  • Jinkook Lee


  • Gema Zamarro

    (University of Southern California, Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research)


How does retirement influence subjective well-being? Some studies suggest retirement does not affect subjective well-being or may improve it. Others suggest it adversely affects it. This paper aims at advancing our understanding of the effect of retirement on subjective well-being by (1) using longitudinal data to tease out the retirement effect from age and cohort differences; (2) using instrumental variables to address potential reverse causation of subjective well-being on retirement decisions; and (3) conducting cross-country analyses, exploiting differences in eligibility ages for retirement benefits across countries and within countries. We use panel data from the US Health and Retirement Study and the Survey of Health, Ageing, and Retirement in Europe. This allows us to use a quasi-experimental approach where variations in public pension eligibility due to country and cohort specific retirement ages help identify retirement effects. For both the U.S. and Europe we find that retirement is associated with higher levels of depression. However, when we use instrumental variables we find the opposite result. Retirement induced through Social Security pension eligibility is found to have a positive effect, reducing depression symptoms, although only marginally significant for the U.S. when considering the depression indicator. Retirement is not found to have a significant effect on life satisfaction measures for either the U.S. or Europe.

Suggested Citation

  • Arie Kapteyn & Jinkook Lee & Gema Zamarro, 2013. "Does Retirement Induced through Social Security Pension Eligibility Influence Subjective Well-being? A Cross-Country Comparison," Working Papers wp301, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp301

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    1. Andries De Grip & Maarten Lindeboom & Raymond Montizaan, 2012. "Shattered Dreams: The Effects of Changing the Pension System Late in the Game," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 122(559), pages 1-25, March.
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    11. Richard Easterlin, 2005. "Feeding the Illusion of Growth and Happiness: A Reply to Hagerty and Veenhoven," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 74(3), pages 429-443, December.
    12. Maximiliane E. Szinovacz & Adam Davey, 2004. "Retirement Transitions and Spouse Disability: Effects on Depressive Symptoms," Journals of Gerontology: Series B, Gerontological Society of America, vol. 59(6), pages 333-342.
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