Research and Analysis by Benjamin Bridges
The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) and the Aged: How and Why the SPM and Official Poverty Estimates Differ
In November 2011, the Census Bureau released its first report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure. The SPM addresses many criticisms of the official poverty measure and is intended to provide an improved statistical picture of poverty. This article examines the extent of poverty identified by the two measures. First, we look at how the SPM and official estimates differ for various aged and nonaged groups. Then, we look at why the SPM poverty rate for the aged is much higher than the official rate.
Higher labor force participation rates for people aged 62–79 are associated with a dramatic increase in the share of their total money income attributable to earnings. For persons aged 65–69, the earnings share increased from 28 percent in 1980 to 42 percent in 2009. Two decades ago, Social Security benefits and earnings were roughly equal shares of total money income (about 30 percent); the earnings share is now more than 12 percentage points larger. The marked increase in the importance of earnings as an income source is also evident throughout the 62–79 age range among Social Security beneficiaries.
Assessing the Performance of Life-Cycle Portfolio Allocation Strategies for Retirement Saving: A Simulation Study
The investment performance of life-cycle portfolio allocation strategies is evaluated using a stochastic simulation based on historical asset returns during 1926–2008. Lifetime contribution streams to the accounts are determined using the actual earnings histories of 13,000 workers born in 1915–1942. The results are compared with those of four alternative strategies that vary in terms of investor exposure to stock and bond market risk.
Examining Social Security Benefits as a Retirement Resource for Near-Retirees, by Race and Ethnicity, Nativity, and Disability Status
This article examines the distribution of Social Security benefits among recent cohorts of near-retirees, by (1) race and ethnicity, (2) nativity, and (3) disability status. Actual earnings history data help produce more accurate measures of benefits. The authors find that substantial differences in earnings levels and/or mortality levels among these subgroups interact with Social Security program provisions to produce sizable differences in values of benefit measures, such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates.
Social Security as a Retirement Resource for Near-Retirees, by Race and Ethnicity, Nativity, Benefit Type, and Disability Status
This paper analyzes Social Security benefits as a retirement resource for selected subgroups of current and recent cohorts of near-retirees. The paper examines the distribution of benefits among (1) several race-ethnic subgroups, (2) the native-born and the foreign-born, (3) worker, spouse, and survivor beneficiaries, and (4) the disabled and the nondisabled. We use improved data (actual earnings history data) to produce more accurate measures of benefits. We look at how the average values of several benefit measures such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates differ among the selected subgroups and discuss reasons for these differences. We find that substantial differences in earnings levels and/or mortality levels among these subgroups interact with Social Security program provisions to produce sizable differences in the values of our benefit measures.
This paper analyzes Social Security benefits as a retirement resource for near-retirees. It looks at how the average values of several measures of benefits such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates have changed from earlier cohorts to today's near-retiree cohort, examines differences among demographic and socioeconomic groups within cohorts, and discusses reasons for these changes and differences. The paper uses greatly improved data (actual earnings histories) to produce more accurate measures of benefits; it also uses some new benefit measures. Key findings include the following: (1) average real Social Security wealth increases markedly for successive age cohorts, primarily because of increases in average real earnings; (2) replacement rates fall for recent cohorts, primarily because of the phase-in of increases in the age of eligibility for full benefits; and (3) median Social Security wealth is much higher for women than for men because women live longer.
Simulating Aggregate and Distributional Effects of Various Plans for Modifying the Retirement Earnings Test
Social Security's retirement test continues to receive considerable attention among policymakers. During the past several years a variety of proposals have been advanced that would modify or eliminate the test for persons aged 65–69. In January 1989, we completed a study report, prepared for SSA internal use, that examined several of these proposals, analyzing their effect on earnings, taxes, and benefits in the first year of implementation, assumed to be 1990. The analysis included both aggregate estimates and estimates for selected population subgroups.
Although the specific proposals for modifying the retirement test have changed somewhat during the past 2 years, continued congressional interest has prompted the release of this initial version of our research for public discussion. Because we are in the process of revising the report for final publication, readers are cautioned that numbers and interpretations contained in this paper are subject to change.