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Income and Wealth of Older American Households: Modeling Issues for Public Policy Analysis

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  • Alan L. Gustman
  • F. Thomas Juster

Abstract

This paper evaluates the extent to which current knowledge of retirement, savings, pension and related behavior is sufficient for determining the effects of major policy initiatives on the incomes and wealth of the aged population of the United States. Data are presented from two new surveys, the Health and Retirement Study and the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old Survey, describing the distributions of the major components of income and wealth to be explained by these behavioral models. The data suggest that the amount of wealth held by the older population has been severely understated in earlier surveys. Disagreements and inconsistencies in models of savings indicate that there is no agreed upon behavioral model upon which to base policy analysis. Similar problems characterize the pension literature. Most strikingly, central features of these three major branches of behavioral analysis are mutually inconsistent. Although there are important linkages among the behaviors determining retirement, savings and pension outcomes, research in each area ignores or misspecifies the related behavior from other areas. Consequently, significant advances are required before we can confidently predict the effects of contemplated changes in policies on income and wealth in retirement.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & F. Thomas Juster, 1995. "Income and Wealth of Older American Households: Modeling Issues for Public Policy Analysis," NBER Working Papers 4996, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:4996
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "Retirement and the Stock Market Bubble," NBER Working Papers 9404, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Retirement and Wealth," NBER Working Papers 8229, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2005. "The social security early entitlement age in a structural model of retirement and wealth," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(2-3), pages 441-463, February.
    4. Anderson, Patricia M & Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 1999. "Trends in Male Labor Force Participation and Retirement: Some Evidence on the Role of Pensions and Social Security in the 1970s and 1980s," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(4), pages 757-783, October.
    5. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 1999. "What People Don't Know About Their Pensions and Social Security: An Analysis Using Linked Data from the Health and Retirement Study," NBER Working Papers 7368, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2000. "Social Security Benefits of Immigrants and U.S. Born," NBER Chapters,in: Issues in the Economics of Immigration, pages 309-350 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Olivia S. Mitchell & James F. Moore, "undated". "Retirement Wealth Accumulation and Decumulation: New Developments and Outstanding Opportunities," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-8, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.
    8. Mellor, Jennifer M., 2001. "Long-term care and nursing home coverage: are adult children substitutes for insurance policies?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 527-547, July.
    9. Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2001. "Imperfect Knowledge, Retirement and Saving," NBER Working Papers 8406, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Siu Fai Leung, 2000. "Why Do Some Households Save So Little? A Rational Explanation," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics, vol. 3(4), pages 771-800, October.
    11. Rudolph G. Penner & Richard W. Johnson, 2006. "Health Care Costs, Taxes, and the Retirement Decision: Conceptual Issues and Illustrative Simulation," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2006-20, Center for Retirement Research, revised Nov 2006.
    12. Alan L. Gustman & Olivia S. Mitchell & Andrew A. Samwick & Thomas L. Steinmeier, "undated". "Pension and Social Security Wealth in the Health and Retirement Study," Pension Research Council Working Papers 97-3, Wharton School Pension Research Council, University of Pennsylvania.

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    JEL classification:

    • D31 - Microeconomics - - Distribution - - - Personal Income and Wealth Distribution
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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