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The Implications of Differential Trends in Mortality for Social Security Policy

Author

Listed:
  • John Bound

    (University of Michigan)

  • Arline Geronimus

    (University of Michigan)

  • Javier Rodriguez

    (University of Michigan)

  • Timothy Waidmann

    (Urban Institute)

Abstract

While increased life expectancy in the U.S. has been used as justification for raising the Social Security retirement ages, independent researchers have reported that life expectancy declined in recent decades for white women with less than a high school education. However, there has been a dramatic rise in educational attainment in the U.S. over the 20th century suggesting a more adversely selected population with low levels of education. Using data from the National Vital Statistics System and the U.S. Census from 1990-2010, we examine the robustness of earlier findings to several modifications in the assumptions and methodology employed. We categorize education in terms of relative rank in the overall distribution, rather than by credentials or years of education, and estimate trends in mortality for the bottom quartile. We also consider race and gender specific changes in the distribution of life expectancy. We found no evidence that survival probabilities declined for the bottom quartile of educational attainment. Nor did distributional analyses find any subgroup experienced absolute declines in survival probabilities. We conclude that recent dramatic and highly publicized estimates of worsening mortality rates among non-Hispanic whites who did not graduate from high school are highly sensitive to alternative approaches to asking the fundamental questions implied. However, it does appear that low SES groups are not sharing equally in improving mortality conditions, which raises concerns about the differential impacts of policies that would raise retirement ages uniformly in response to average increases in life expectancy.

Suggested Citation

  • John Bound & Arline Geronimus & Javier Rodriguez & Timothy Waidmann, 2014. "The Implications of Differential Trends in Mortality for Social Security Policy," Working Papers wp314, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:mrr:papers:wp314
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    File URL: http://www.mrrc.isr.umich.edu/publications/Papers/pdf/wp314.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Anne Case & Angus Deaton, 2017. "Mortality and Morbidity in the 21st Century," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 48(1 (Spring), pages 397-476.
    2. Janet Currie & Hannes Schwandt, 2016. "Mortality Inequality: The Good News from a County-Level Approach," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 30(2), pages 29-52, Spring.
    3. Courtney Coile & Kevin Milligan & David A. Wise, 2016. "Introduction to "Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages"," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, pages 1-33 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Courtney Coile & Kevin S. Milligan & David A. Wise, 2016. "Social Security and Retirement Programs Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages – Introduction and Summary," NBER Working Papers 21939, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. James Banks & Carl Emmerson & Gemma Tetlow, 2016. "Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages: Evidence from the United Kingdom," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, pages 329-357 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Li Tan & Cory Koedel, 2017. "The Effects of Differential Income Replacement and Mortality on U.S. Social Security Redistributions," Working Papers 2017-01, Department of Economics, University of Missouri, revised Jun 2018.
    7. Kevin Milligan & Tammy Schirle, 2016. "Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages: Evidence from Canada," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, pages 59-83 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher & Jorge D. Ramos-Mercado, 2016. "Calculating Expected Social Security Benefits by Race, Education, and Claiming Age," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2016-14, Center for Retirement Research.
    9. Hendrik Jürges & Lars Thiel & Axel Börsch-Supan, 2016. "Healthy, Happy, and Idle: Estimating the Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages in Germany," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, pages 149-180 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Courtney Coile & Kevin Milligan & David A. Wise, 2016. "Health Capacity to Work at Older Ages: Evidence from the United States," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages, pages 359-394 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    11. Courtney C. Coile, 2018. "Working Longer in the U.S.: Trends and Explanations," NBER Chapters,in: Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: Working Longer National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Michael Baker & Janet Currie & Hannes Schwandt, 2017. "Mortality Inequality in Canada and the U.S.: Divergent or Convergent Trends?," NBER Working Papers 23514, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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