Old-age provisions in the United States: Changes in the retirement system since the 1980s
When policy discussions turn to income provisions for the old-aged, the focus is often on Social Security programs and the long-term solvency of national public pension systems. While Social Security remains the most important income source for the non-working elderly in the United States, Americans have a much longer tradition of relying on occupational and individual pensions as a crucial part of their retirement income. The paper gives an account of relevant social and legal provisions with implications for voluntary and involuntary retirement, and documents how statutory changes during the past three decades have affected the financial well-being of current and future retirees. It concludes that growing risks in old age are less due to declining Social Security benefits than to several trends in the private industry and financial markets that have seriously weakened employmentbased, old-age protection. In terms of institutional changes, however, the United States has not seen any fundamental restructuring of its public pension system since the 1980s.
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