Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 59, No. 3

(released July 1996)
by John R. Woods

Estimates of total benefits paid by employer sponsored pension plans seem to vary widely between different data sources and measures. Such discrepancies have been used to support differing conclusions about the effectiveness of the pension system. This article examines several measures of aggregate pension benefits in 1990, a year particularly rich in available data. Exploratory analysis suggests that the greatest source of discrepancy lies in differing treatments of lump-sum distributions, although the study also identifies several other types of payments that are variously, and erroneously, counted as pension income. Age of recipients is an important factor in analyzing different measures of aggregate pension benefits; discrepancies are much smaller among the aged than in the population as a whole, The analysis also provides new evidence about the unequal distribution of pension benefits among the aged, confirming from two data sources that benefits are heavily concentrated among higher income groups.

by Jürg K. Siegenthaler

This study takes stock of available comparative research on the economic status of elderly single women in six industrialized countries: France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. A systematic comparison of income has become easier due to such standardized data bases as the Luxembourg Income Study.

But an explanation for different poverty rates among older women who are on their own requires a further, differentiated assessment of the countries' retirement benefit structures. This article attempts such a review. It makes use of a variety of single-country sources and takes into account the institutional heterogeneity of old-age security systems. The study concludes with a view of the effectiveness of different old-age security systems in preventing poverty among older single women.

by Barbara E. Kritzer

In 1981, Chile introduced a new approach to social insurance, a system of individual capitalization accounts financed solely by the employee. This new privatized system was an improvement over Chile's failing pay-as-you-go arrangement. As many countries worldwide are facing financial problems with their social security system, they are now looking to the Chilean model in trying to find solutions. This article describes the conditions that led to the new system, the transition, and details of the new privatized system.