Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 58, No. 2

(released April 1995)
by Dean R. Leimer

This article discusses some of the major issues associated with the question of whether workers receive their money's worth from the Social Security program. An effort is made to keep the discussion as nontechnical as possible, with explanations provided for many of the technical terms and concepts found in the money's worth literature. Major assumptions, key analytical methods, and money's worth measures used in the literature are also discussed. Finally, the key findings of money's worth studies are summarized, with some cautions concerning the limitations and appropriate usage of money's worth analyses.

by David Pattison

On average, persons receiving Social Security benefits tend to have lower current incomes than do persons paying Social Security taxes. This article documents OASDI's income distributional patterns by dividing the 1992 Current Population Survey population into 10 income deciles and tabulating benefits received and taxes paid by each decile. The benefits and taxes, when compared with non-Social Security income, are progressive: as income rises from decile to decile, the ratio of benefits to income falls, and, except at the highest deciles, the ratio of taxes to income rises.

A large component of the current income distributional pattern is associated with age: the young on average receive more income and pay more taxes; the old on average receive more benefits. However, when benefits and taxes are tabulated for income deciles within specific age groups, a general progressivity is still observable, although it is weaker than that for the population as a whole.

by Harriet Orcutt Duleep

The absence of a correlation between age-adjusted death rates and the average income levels of economically developed countries has led researchers to conclude that income does not affect the mortality levels of economically developed countries. The mortality experiences of the former Soviet Union and some of the eastern European countries have further brought into question the importance of income's distribution in determining mortality among economically developed countries; prior to its breakup, the income distribution of the Soviet Union was as equal as that of Sweden, yet the life expectancy of the Soviets has been dramatically shorter than that of the Swedes. Using insights from a longitudinal microanalysis of U.S. mortality, this study presents evidence that, even for economically developed countries, the income distribution of a nation is an important determinant of its mortality. The results of this study also suggest that the relatively unequal income distribution of the United States is an important contributing factor to its low life expectancy relative to other high-income countries.

by Jack Schmulowitz

Benefit payments under workers' compensation programs in the United States during 1992-93 stabilized in comparison with the experience of prior years, which had been marked by substantial growth. In 1992, the total benefit amount of $44.7 billion was 5.9 percent higher than the amount in 1991. The 1993 benefit amount of $42.9 billion represented a 3.9 percent decrease from the amount in 1992. From 1991 to 1993, benefits increased by only 1.8 percent. The payments for 1993 included $25.4 billion in wage-loss compensation and $17.5 billion for medical care.

Employer costs of providing workers' compensation was $55 billion in 1992 and $57.3 billion in 1993. The cost of protection per covered employee was $597 in 1993, equal to $2.30 per $100 of payroll. In the same year, there were 96.1 million workers covered under Federal and State programs.

This article examines 1992–93 program experience in terms of benefits, costs, and the components of change.