Sunday, June 8, 2008

Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67 No. 4

The latest issue of the Social Security Bulletin, the Social Security Adminstration's research and policy journal, is now available online. Contents include:

Women, Marriage, and Social Security Benefits Revisited

by Christopher R. Tamborini and Kevin Whitman

This article uses a Restricted-Use File of the 2001 Marital History Topical Module to the U.S. Census Bureau's Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to examine women's marital histories in relation to Social Security spouse and widow benefit eligibility. To assess marital trends over time, the authors compare SIPP estimates to data reported in Iams and Ycas' 1988 article, "Women, Marriage and Social Security Benefits," which used the 1985 Marital History Supplement to the Current Population Survey. The results shed light on important links between sociodemographic trends in marriage and Social Security beneficiaries. Over three-fourths of women aged 40 to 69 in 2001 already had marital histories that guarantee them the option of a spouse or widow benefit at retirement. However, a smaller proportion of these women would be potentially eligible to receive spouse or widow benefits compared to their counterparts in 1985 due to changes in patterns in marriage, particularly among younger women in the baby-boom cohort. Notable shifts include rising proportions of currently divorced women without a 10-year marriage and never-married women.

Disabled Workers and the Indexing of Social Security Benefits

by Alexander Strand and Kalman Rupp

This article presents the distributional effects of changing the Social Security indexing scheme, with an emphasis on the effects upon disabled-worker beneficiaries. Although a class of reform proposals that would slow the rate of growth of initial benefit levels over time—including price indexing and longevity indexing—initially appear to affect all beneficiaries proportionally, there can be different impacts on different groups of beneficiaries. The impacts between and within groups are mitigated by (1) the offsetting effect of changes in Supplemental Security Income benefits at the lower tail of the income distribution, and (2) the dampening effect of other family income at the upper tail of the income distribution. The authors present estimates of the size of these effects.

Financing Social Security 1939-1949: A Reexamination of the Financing Policies of this Period

by Larry DeWitt

Presented is an examination of the financing history of the U.S. Social Security system from the passage of the original law in 1935 up through the enactment of the 1950 Amendments to the Social Security Act. In particular, it focuses on the 1939 Social Security Amendments and the subsequent tax rate freezes enacted between 1939 and 1949. It examines the origins of these taxing policies and assesses the impact of the rate freezes on the long-range actuarial balance of the Social Security program during this period.

The Food Stamp Program and Supplemental Security Income

by Brad Trenkamp and Michael Wiseman

The Food Stamp Program (FSP) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are important parts of national public assistance policy, and there is considerable overlap in the populations that the programs serve. This article investigates FSP participation by households that include SSI recipients and assesses the importance of various provisions of the Food Stamp Program that favor SSI recipients.

The Reservation Wages of Social Security Disability Insurance Beneficiaries

by Sophie Mitra

Using the New Beneficiary Data System, this article examines the reservation wages of a sample of Social Security Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries with work capabilities. It analyzes the magnitude of the reservation wages of DI beneficiaries compared to the last wage earned and to benefit amounts. In addition, the article discusses the determinants of reservation wages for DI beneficiaries.

KiwiSaver: New Zealand's New Subsidized Retirement Savings Plans

by Barbara Kritzer

On July 1, 2007, New Zealand introduced KiwiSaver, a new subsidized retirement savings plan. All new entrants to the labor force and anyone starting a new job are automatically enrolled in a plan and may opt out if they wish. Anyone younger than age 65, including the self-employed and anyone not in the labor force, may choose to set up a KiwiSaver account. The government provides tax credits for both employer and account holder contributions, a one-time tax-free payment to each account, and an annual fee subsidy to defray administrative costs.


JG said...

Andrew, thanks for posting the link to this...

"Financing Social Security 1939-1949: A Reexamination of the Financing Policies of this Period"

That and the CRS paper about the 1983 re-animation of the trust fund that you previously pointed to provide an historical picture of it that's pretty darn different from the idea of it that's taken over the popular imagination.

IMHO, nobody should draft a "reform plan" for SS without considering the politics that drove the big changes in SS in each episode, because when SS goes cash flow negative those same politics will be back.

No plan to restore "75 year actuarial balance" or the like without considering the effect of those political forces is likely to have much long-term relevance, I think. SS has always been driven by the politics of cash flow. Long-term actuarial balance has never mattered since FDRs first design dropped into the hands and control of Congress in '39, and I don't see why that would change any going forward. The incentives driving politicians remain the same, I fear.

Well, that's one person's opinion. FWIW.

Thanks again.

Andrew G. Biggs said...

Larry DeWitt's piece is very interesting. I never followed the detailed policy history very closely until fairly recently, but there are a lot of surprises and good information in there.