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Retirement Research Consortium

The Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) consists of three multidisciplinary centers housed in three separate institutions (Boston College, the University of Michigan, and the National Bureau of Economic Research) and is funded through cooperative agreements with the Social Security Administration. The current five-year cooperative agreements run from FY2014 through FY2018.

The RRC has three main goals:

  • Research and evaluate a wide array of topics related to Social Security and retirement policy,
  • Disseminate information on Social Security and retirement issues relevant to policymakers, researchers, and the general public, and
  • Train scholars and practitioners in research areas relevant to
    Social Security and retirement issues.

Read More About…
the RRC's evolution and research contributions in a series of articles in the Social Security Bulletin.

To meet these goals, the centers perform many activities. They conduct research, prepare policy briefs and working papers, hold an annual meeting, and provide research and training support for young scholars. Links to recent RRC research are provided below. For further information about RRC activities, affiliated institutions, or individual researchers, please visit the websites of the respective institutions:

Recent RRC Research

View RRC Research by Priority Research Area  |  View Archived Research

Abstracts:show all / hide all
August 2015

The Role of Exponential-Growth Bias and Present Bias in Retirement Savings

by Gopi Shah Goda, Matthew R. Levy, Colleen F. Manchester, Aaron J. Sojourner, and Joshua Tasoff
SSA Project # NB15-04 • Wealth and Retirement Income
National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper 21482

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There is considerable variation in retirement savings within income, age, and educational categories. Using a broad sample of the U.S. population, we elicit time preference parameters from a quasi-hyperbolic discounting model, and perceptions of exponential growth. We find that present bias (PB), the tendency to value utility in the present over the future in a dynamically inconsistent way, and exponential-growth bias (EGB), the tendency to neglect compounding, are prevalent and distinct latent variables. PB, EGB, and the long-run discount factor are all highly significant in predicting retirement savings, even while controlling for measures of IQ and general financial literacy as well as a rich set of demographic controls. We find that lack of self-awareness of these biases has an additional independent negative impact on retirement savings. We assess potential threats to a causal interpretation of our results with a hypothetical choice experiment and several robustness exercises. Finally, we explore potential mechanisms for our findings. If the relationship we estimate is causal, our estimates suggest that eliminating PB and EGB would be associated with an increase in retirement savings of 12%, or as high as 70% using estimates that account for classical measurement error.
February 2015

The Impact of Leakages from 401(k)s and IRAs

by Alicia H. Munnell and Anthony Webb
SSA Project # BC14-04
Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Working Paper 2015-02

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As Social Security replacement rates decline, retirees will become more dependent on 401(k)s and IRAs. Previous research has yielded a wide range of estimates of the magnitude of leakages from these plans and may not fully account for the recent shift to IRAs. This project will calculate both the size of leakages relative to contributions and their impact on wealth at retirement.