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Early Retirement, Social Security and Well-Being in Germany

  • Axel Börsch-Supan
  • Hendrik Jürges

Germans retire early. On the one hand, early retirement is very costly and amplifies the burden which the German public pension system has to carry due to population aging. On the other hand, however, early retirement is also seen as a much appreciated social achievement which increases the well-being especially of those workers who suffer from work-related health problems. This paper investigates the relation between early retirement and well-being using the GSOEP panel data. The general picture that emerges from our analysis is that early retirement as such seems to be related to subjective well-being, in fact more so than normal retirement. Early retirement most probably is a reaction to a health shock. Individuals are less happy in the year of early retirement than in the years before and after retirement. After retirement, individuals attain their pre-retirement satisfaction levels after a relatively short while. Hence, the early retirement effect on well-being appears to be negative and short-lived rather than positive and long. Whether this is an effect of retirement itself or a psychological adaptation to an underlying shock cannot be identified in our data and remains an open research issue waiting for a more objective measurement of health.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12303.

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Date of creation: Jun 2006
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Wise, David A. (ed.) Developments in the Economics of Aging, A National Bureau of Economic Research Conference Report. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2009.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12303
Note: AG LS PE
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  1. Simone Kohnz & Reinhold Schnabel, 2002. "Micro Modeling of Retirement Decisions in Germany," MEA discussion paper series 02020, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  2. Andrew E. Clark & Ed Diener & Yannis Georgellis & Richard E. Lucas, 2007. "Lags and Leads in Life Satisfaction: A Test of the Baseline Hypothesis," CEP Discussion Papers dp0836, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
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  4. Winkelmann, Liliana & Winkelmann, Rainer, 1998. "Why Are the Unemployed So Unhappy? Evidence from Panel Data," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 65(257), pages 1-15, February.
  5. James H. Stock & David A. Wise, 1988. "The Pension Inducement to Retire: An Option Value Analysis," NBER Working Papers 2660, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Jonathan Gruber & David A. Wise, 2002. "Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World: Micro Estimation," NBER Working Papers 9407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Barbara Berkel & Axel Börsch-Supan, 2004. "Pension Reform in Germany: The Impact on Retirement Decisions," FinanzArchiv: Public Finance Analysis, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 60(3), pages 393-, September.
  8. Lindeboom, Maarten & Portrait, France & van den Berg, Gerard J, 2001. "An Econometric Analysis of the Mental-Health Effects of Major Events in the Life of Elderly Individuals," CEPR Discussion Papers 3091, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  9. Axel Börsch-Supan & Barbara Berkel, 2004. "Pension Reform in Germany: The Impact on Retirement Decisions," MEA discussion paper series 04062, Munich Center for the Economics of Aging (MEA) at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy.
  10. Kerwin Kofi Charles, 2002. "Is Retirement Depressing?: Labor Force Inactivity and Psychological Well-Being in Later Life," NBER Working Papers 9033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  11. John Bound, 1991. "Self-Reported Versus Objective Measures of Health in Retirement Models," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 26(1), pages 106-138.
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