Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 62, No. 2

(released September 1999)
by Steven H. Sandell, Howard M. Iams, and Daniel Fanaras

This study evaluates the effects of changing the averaging period used to calculate Social Security benefits from 35 years to 38 or 40 years and the introduction of a minimum benefit provision for future retirees born during the early part of the baby boom generation. Proposals to change the averaging period have been recommended by a majority of the 1994–96 Advisory Council on Social Security. Based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) matched to Social Security Administration earnings records, the study projects retirement benefits for different subgroups of the population under existing and proposed benefit rules. The magnitudes of the retirees' benefit changes vary by demographic group. The minimum benefit provision substantially mitigates the effects of the change to a 40-year averaging period for some groups of women.

by Kelvin R. Utendorf

In this article, the author uses large, Social Security administrative data sets to examine changes in earnings distributions in the United States over the 1980s through the mid-1990s. Because the earnings information contained in these data sets comes directly from the W-2 forms filed by employers, self-reporting errors and top-coding problems, common in other data used for this type of analysis, are minimized. Previous research has documented an increase in overall earnings inequality during the 1970s and the 1980s. The author finds that this upward trend in overall earnings inequality continues into the mid-1990s, despite a period of nearly constant or slightly decreasing earnings inequality from 1988 through 1992. The data also suggest that between-group earnings inequality, whether dividing the sample into groups by age group or by birth cohort, is increasing. Despite the increase in between-group earnings inequality over the period examined, however, within-group earnings inequality remains by far the largest contributor to overall earnings inequality.

by Kalman Rupp, Dianne Driessen, Robert Kornfeld, and Michelle L. Wood

This article describes the development of SSA's administrative records database for the Project NetWork return-to-work experiment targeting persons with disabilities. The article is part of a series of papers on the evaluation of the Project NetWork demonstration. In addition to 8,248 Project NetWork participants randomly assigned to receive case management services and a control group, the simulation identified 138,613 eligible nonparticipants in the demonstration areas. The output data files contain detailed monthly information on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Disability Insurance (DI) benefits, annual earnings, and a set of demographic and diagnostic variables. The data allow for the measurement of net outcomes and the analysis of factors affecting participation. The results suggest that it is feasible to simulate complex eligibility rules using administrative records, and create a clean and edited data file for a comprehensive and credible evaluation. The study shows that it is feasible to use administrative records data for selecting control or comparison groups in future demonstration evaluations.

by Dean R. Leimer

This article provides a brief overview of the more important studies of lifetime redistribution under the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) programs. Studies are categorized into two types, those that focus on redistribution across successive cohorts of workers or typical members of those cohorts and those that focus on the distribution of results across characteristics of interest within particular cohorts of workers. A list of related studies is provided at the end of the article for those interested in additional reading.

by Lenna D. Kennedy

Beginning in January 1974, the three previously existing State adult assistance programs were amalgamated into the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, to be administered by the Social Security Administration. This change was made to provide a nationwide floor of income for needs-based assistance, and to make such payments more efficiently by working through SSA's existing network of field offices.

This article traces the 25-year patterns of growth and changes in the number of persons applying for assistance, the number and proportion of those applicants who were awarded payments, and the overall number of persons who received SSI. Three major age groups are considered separately: those aged 65 or older, disabled adults aged 18–64, and children age 18 and younger. The last group was newly eligible under SSI for payments based on their own blindness or disability and not, as was the case previously, because they were a member of a needy family.

by Alexa A. Hendley and Natasha F. Bilimoria

This report addresses how individuals from various racial and ethnic groups fare under the current Social Security system. It examines the relative importance of Social Security for these individuals and how several aspects of the system affect them.

by Janice A. Olson

The Health and Retirement Study (HRS is a major longitudinal study designed for scientific and policy researchers for study of the economics, health, and demography of retirement and aging. This note describes the data from SSA records that have been released for linking to HRS data, linkage rates resulting from the consent process, and subgroup patterns in linkage rates.