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Social Security, Pensions and Retirement Behavior Within the Family


  • Alan L. Gustman
  • Thomas L. Steinmeier


This paper estimates a structural model of family retirement using U.S. data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) and from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women. Estimates using the HRS benefit from having, for each spouse, earnings histories provided by the respondent and the Social Security Administration, and employer provided pension plan descriptions. We find that a measure of how much each spouse values being able to spend time in retirement with the other accounts for a good portion of the apparent interdependence of the retirement decisions of husbands and wives. When we include this measure, the simulations almost double the frequency of predicted joint retirements. Once estimated, we use the model to investigate the labor supply effects of alternative social security policies, examining the effect of dividing credit for earnings evenly between spouses, or of basing social security benefits on the amounts accumulated in private accounts. Both policies change the relative importance of spouse and survivor social security benefits within the household and both raise the relative reward to work later in the life cycle. The incentives created are modest, and retirement responds accordingly. Nevertheless, at some ages, such as 65, there may be as much as a 6 percent increase in the old age work force under privatized accounts.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan L. Gustman & Thomas L. Steinmeier, 2002. "Social Security, Pensions and Retirement Behavior Within the Family," NBER Working Papers 8772, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8772
    Note: AG LS PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Berkovec, James & Stern, Steven, 1991. "Job Exit Behavior of Older Men," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 59(1), pages 189-210, January.
    2. Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 1986. "A Structural Retirement Model," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 54(3), pages 555-584, May.
    3. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2001. "How effective is redistribution under the social security benefit formula?," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 1-28, October.
    4. 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.
    5. Eric French & John Bailey Jones, 2011. "The Effects of Health Insurance and Self‐Insurance on Retirement Behavior," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 693-732, May.
    6. William G. Gale, 1994. "Public policies and private pension contributions," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, pages 710-734.
    7. Lumsdaine, Robin L. & Stock, James H. & Wise, David A., 1990. "Efficient windows and labor force reduction," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 131-159, November.
    8. Mitchell, Olivia S, 1988. "Worker Knowledge of Pension Provisions," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 6(1), pages 21-39, January.
    9. Gustman, Alan L & Steinmeier, Thomas L, 2000. "Retirement in Dual-Career Families: A Structural Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 503-545, July.
    10. Ippolito, Richard A., 1998. "Pension Plans and Employee Performance," University of Chicago Press Economics Books, University of Chicago Press, edition 1, number 9780226384559, December.
    11. Gary S. Fields & Olivia S. Mitchell, 1984. "Retirement, Pensions, and Social Security," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262060914, January.
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    JEL classification:

    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions

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