The Sensitivity of Proposed Social Security Benefit Formula Changes to Lifetime Earnings Definitions
by Hilary Waldron
In policy debates, the terms "low earner" and "low income" are often used interchangeably. However, the continued presence of traditional gender roles in the division of labor between market and nonmarket hours of work suggests that for both birth cohorts currently reaching retirement and those currently of childbearing age, a sizeable number of women may have low earnings without being of low-income. This study finds that if policymakers wish to adjust future benefits and focus benefit reductions on middle or high primary or full-time wage earners in a household, the distribution of male earnings, rather than unisex earnings, would come closer to achieving such a goal. Both in the past and present, men are more likely to contribute the greater share of paid market hours worked and therefore are more likely to be the primary earner in the household.
The Implications of Marital History Change on Women's Eligibility for Social Security Wife and Widow Benefits, 1990–2009
by Howard M. Iams and Christopher R. Tamborini
Social Security retirement-age benefits in the United States reflect marital histories and lifetime earnings of current and former married couples. We examine women's marital history patterns and spouse and widow benefit eligibility over the past two decades, 1990 and 2009. Our analysis reveals substantial changes in women's marital patterns among the baby boom and generation X cohorts. We find a substantial decline in qualifying marital histories for Social Security spouse and widow benefits. The results reveal considerable variation by race and Hispanic origin.
Raising Household Saving: Does Financial Education Work?
by William G. Gale, Benjamin H. Harris, and Ruth Levine
Financial illiteracy is prevalent in the United States, and low levels of financial literacy are associated with poor financial choices and negative economic outcomes. We examine previous work on the effect of financial education on household saving and find mixed results. Workplace financial education seminars positively affect household saving, but the size of this effect varies widely across studies. The effects of other financial education initiatives are less clear, highlighting the need for rigorous econometric evaluation of efforts to improve financial literacy.
The Growth in Social Security Benefits Among the Retirement-Age Population from Increases in the Cap on Covered Earnings
by Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier, and Nahid Tabatabai
This article investigates how raising the maximum level of earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax leads to the "leakage" of portions of the additional revenue into higher benefit payments. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, the authors simulate the effects of changes in maximum taxable earnings for cohorts approaching retirement age over a 24-year period. They find, roughly, that almost half of the additional tax revenue from having raised the maximum earnings subject to the payroll tax has leaked into higher benefits.
Introduction and Overview of the 2012 Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Federal Disability Insurance
The Board of Trustees reports each year on the current and projected financial condition of the Social Security program, which is financed through two separate trust funds: the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund and the Disability Insurance Trust Fund. The introduction, overview, and full report are available here.
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