Friday, May 12, 2017

New paper: "The Importance of Social Security Benefits to the Income of the Aged Population"

"The Importance of Social Security Benefits to the Income of the Aged Population"
Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 77(2), p. 1-12, 2017

IRENA DUSHI, U.S. Social Security Administration
HOWARD IAMS, U.S. Social Security Administration
BRAD TRENKAMP, Government of the United States of America - Social Security Administration

Social Security benefits comprise the most important source of income for people aged 65 and over. However, changes in the last decades in employer-provided pensions, Social Security program, and societal changes may have altered the composition of income sources among the elderly. Some researchers have argued that the Current Population Survey (CPS ASEC) doesn’t properly measure income from retirement accounts and thus overestimate importance of Social Security and underestimate reliance on income from pensions. Given changes to the CPS, we focus on reliance on Social Security benefits among the elderly, using data from the 2015 CPS, and validate the CPS estimates with those from the Survey of Income and Program Participation and the Health and Retirement Study. Despite differences across the three surveys, estimates are quite similar regarding the share of income from Social Security. Findings suggest that about half of elderly receive at least 50% of their family income from Social Security benefits, whereas for a quarter of elderly Social Security benefits comprise at least 90% of their family income.

Editorial note: Ideally, a paper like this would rely on IRS data, which better captures retirement account income (e.g., Bee and Mitchell, 2016). Lacking that, as a check, this paper could sum the incomes of retirees in the CPS, SIPP and HRS and check them against publicly-available IRS data. If total incomes fall short – which they will with the IRS and SIPP (less sure about the HRS) then these datasets will overestimate dependency on Social Security benefits.

1 comment:

WilliamLarsen said...

Social Security may be important, but it is broke beyond repair. Over $35 Trillion in unfunded liabilities. Too bad politicians did not realize the importance of funding it properly over the past 80 years.

Most realize the importance of saving for one's future retirement. Acting and putting effort into realizing the ability to retire in the future is a totally different and far more important.

Should I laugh or cry?