Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 2

(released April 1996)
by Peter M. Wheeler and John R. Kearney

It is becoming increasing difficult worldwide for the aged to sustain a minimum level of income protection into retirement. Rapidly aging populations and lower fertility rates are creating serious fiscal strains on current social insurance systems. A report issued by the World Bank maintains that countries whose primary mechanism for providing old-age income protection is a publicly managed social insurance system will experience significant difficulties unless they make structural changes in their programs. Actuarial estimates indicate that benefit payments in the United States could in fact exceed income to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund by 2029 and a variety of proposals to address this problem are being advanced. We suggest a framework to evaluate such proposals based on a set of core values (fairness, adequacy, and efficiency) and analyze some of the proposed changes both in relation to how they have been employed in other countries and within the context of the framework. The purpose of this article is to inform and help structure a most important debate.

by Harriet Orcutt Duleep and Mark C. Regets

Immigrant cohorts have varied over time in many ways that have important implications for projecting the contributions immigrants make to the Social Security system. Using immigrant cohorts in the 1970, 1980, and 1990 decennial censuses, we find that immigrant men experience faster earnings growth than U.S.-born men; that there has been a large decline in initial immigrant earnings over time; and that there has been an accompanying large increase over time in immigrant earnings growth rates. Thus, recent reductions in immigrant entry earnings are significantly compensated for by faster immigrant earnings growth.

by Clark D. Pickett and Charles G. Scott

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) statistics have been published in the Social Security Bulletin since the program began in 1974. For the most part, these statistics have been snapshots of current caseloads. Now, a new SSI longitudinal file permits a retrospective look at past program data. It also permits us to redefine key program indicators and to produce new distributions for these data. In this article, we take a look back in time at SSI applications, caseloads, and awards, and describe how these data were obtained from the SSI administrative computer files.