Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 No. 2

(released July 2009)
by Paul S. Davies and T. Lynn Fisher

Researchers using survey data matched with administrative data benefit from the rich demographic and economic detail available from survey data combined with detailed programmatic data from administrative records. This article focuses on survey data matched with administrative data from the Social Security Administration and addresses the strengths and weaknesses of each in four specific areas: program participation and benefits, disability and health information, earnings, and deferred compensation The article discusses the implications of these strengths and weaknesses for decisions that researchers must make regarding the appropriate data source and definition for the concepts in question.

by Chris E. Anguelov and Christopher R. Tamborini

This article uses the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances to examine near retirees' (aged 50 to 61) debt holdings in 1995 and 2004. Employing a variety of measures on household borrowing, our results show that near retirees in 2004—the leading edge of the baby-boom cohort—had more consumer and housing debt than their counterparts in 1995. We observe a modest increase in the median debt service and debt-to-assets ratios between the two cohorts, but no statistical difference in their respective average. Analysis of several demographic and socioeconomic subgroups reveals certain population segments, such as single female households, with significantly higher debt service ratios in 2004.

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.

by Carolyn Puckett

The use of the Social Security number (SSN) has expanded significantly since its inception in 1936. Created merely to keep track of the earnings history of U.S. workers for Social Security entitlement and benefit computation purposes, it has come to be used as a nearly universal identifier. Assigned at birth, the SSN enables other government agencies to identify individuals in their records and private industry to track an individual's financial information. This article explores the history and meaning of the SSN and the Social Security card, as well as the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) SSN master file, generally known as the Numident. The article also traces the historical expansion of SSN use and steps SSA has taken to enhance SSN integrity.