Selected Research & Analysis: Mortality

See also related Extramural Projects.

Quick Disability Determination Cases: Descriptive Statistics for Fiscal Years 2015–2020
Research and Statistics Note No. 2022-02 (released September 2022)
by Sika Koudou and Jethro Dely

In the early 2000s, members of the baby boom generation were approaching the ages at which disability onset is most common. Anticipating long-term increases in disability benefit applications, the Social Security Administration instituted the Quick Disability Determination (QDD) process beginning in 2006. Using a computer-based predictive model to screen initial applications, QDD identifies claims for which an allowance is deemed probable and medical evidence to support a quick decision is likely to be readily available. This note presents QDD case volumes for fiscal years 2015–2020, compares QDD and non-QDD cases, and investigates whether an unexpected decline in disability benefit application receipts during that period affected the prevalence and processing times of QDD cases.

How Does Mortality Among Disability-Program Beneficiaries Compare with That of the General Population? A Summary of Actuarial Estimates
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 81, No. 4 (released November 2021)
by Javier Meseguer

Using period mortality estimates from Social Security Administration actuarial studies published over the period from 1977 to 2015, this article compares the long-term mortality trends of Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries aged 25 or older with those of the general population. The author finds substantial longevity gaps between the groups. Mortality rates among DI beneficiaries are highest in their first year on the DI rolls; rates are lower among those with longer durations on the rolls. Although period mortality for DI beneficiaries improved significantly over the study period, it remains today at levels similar to those experienced by the general public in the early years of the 20th century.

Changing Longevity, Social Security Retirement Benefits, and Potential Adjustments
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 81, No. 3 (released August 2021)
by Gayle L. Reznik, Kenneth A. Couch, Christopher R. Tamborini, and Howard M. Iams

Long-term increases in life expectancy have varied for individuals with different lifetime earnings levels. This article examines two hypothetical adjustments to Social Security Old-Age and Survivors Insurance benefits that would offset the differential changes in projected life expectancy. The authors use the Modeling Income in the Near Term microsimulation model to analyze how the adjustments would affect benefits for beneficiaries across the lifetime earnings distribution.

Infant Mortality Among Supplemental Security Income Applicants
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 79, No. 2 (released May 2019)
by Jeffrey Hemmeter and Paul S. Davies

This article examines infant and neonatal mortality rates among children who applied for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments before reaching 1 year of age during the period 1985–2015. The authors use administrative records from the Social Security Administration to calculate mortality rates across distinct SSI policy regimes within that period. When focusing on children who applied in 2015, the authors examine variations in mortality rates among infant SSI applicants by selected sociodemographic, medical, and SSI program-related characteristics.

Discount Rate Specification and the Social Security Claiming Decision
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 76, No. 2 (released May 2016)
by Brian J. Alleva

Choosing the claiming age that maximizes the expected present value of lifetime Social Security retirement benefits requires a survival function to account for an individual's prospective longevity along with the specification of a rate by which to discount the future benefit payments for each claiming age. This article evaluates optimal claiming ages for prospective beneficiaries across a range of 81 real discount rate options (specified in increments of one-tenth of 1 percent) from 0 percent to 8 percent, considering the survival functions for men and women born in 1952. It examines the implications of choosing a given rate as well as the sensitivity of the optimal claiming age to a specific rate choice.

The Longevity Visualizer: An Analytic Tool for Exploring the Cohort Mortality Data Produced by the Office of the Chief Actuary
Research and Statistics Note No. 2016-02 (released May 2016)
by Brian J. Alleva

This note introduces the Longevity Visualizer (LV), a visual-analysis tool that enables users to explore various applications of cohort life-table data compiled and calculated by the Social Security Administration's Office of the Chief Actuary. The LV presents the life-table data in two series—survival functions and age-at-death probability distributions—each of which is generated for each potential age and each sex across a long range of historical and projected birth cohorts. The LV is designed to make complex longevity projections accessible to analysts and researchers, as well as to individuals making financial and retirement plans.

Longitudinal Patterns of Disability Program Participation and Mortality Across Childhood SSI Award Cohorts
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 75, No. 1 (released February 2015)
by Kalman Rupp, Jeffrey Hemmeter, and Paul S. Davies

This article follows six annual cohorts of childhood Supplemental Security Income (SSI) disability awardees between 1980 and 2000, for a time horizon up to 30 years after initial SSI award, in many cases well into adulthood. The authors compare trajectories of successive awardee cohorts as the SSI program evolves from 1980 to recent years. The results show that the proportion of awardees in SSI-only status declines over the life cycle, with over half transitioning to other statuses roughly after 10 to 15 years. Many awardees transition from the SSI program to concurrent or Disability Insurance–only benefit status, and increasing proportions of awardees are deceased or off the rolls and alive. These patterns are common for all awardee cohorts, but there are major changes in trajectories across cohorts. Compared with the early cohorts, the more recent cohorts display sharper declines in mortality and steeper increases in the proportion off the disability rolls for other reasons. These two trends have opposite effects on the duration of disability program participation over the life cycle, with important policy implications.

The Effects of Alternative Demographic and Economic Assumptions on MINT Simulations: A Sensitivity Analysis
Research and Statistics Note No. 2014-03 (released April 2014)
by Patrick J. Purcell and Dave Shoffner

The Social Security Administration's (SSA's) Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) estimates income/wealth of future retirees. Estimates are based on demographic information from the Survey of Income and Program Participation: individual earnings histories and projections of interest rates, wage growth, mortality rates, and disability rates. Historically, MINT simulations were based exclusively on SSA's Office of the Chief Actuary's (OCACT's) intermediate-cost projections of key demographic/economic variables. The authors present the results of a sensitivity analysis in which they ran MINT using OCACT's low-cost/high-cost projections of mortality and disability trends. Those simulations estimated characteristics of the population aged 65 or older in 2040 under alternative projections of mortality/disability trends. The authors then describe simulations in which future real rates of return on stocks held in retirement accounts differ from the historical mean real rate of return used in baseline simulations. Sensitivity analyses can help MINT users choose model parameters with the greatest impact on simulation results.

Mortality Differentials by Lifetime Earnings Decile: Implications for Evaluations of Proposed Social Security Law Changes
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 1 (released February 2013)
by Hilary Waldron

Under current law, the link between earnings and benefit levels and the equal application of age-of-entitlement rules, regardless of earnings levels, means that a worker is never penalized for additional work or thrift. This article finds that the Social Security–insured population does not fall neatly into a low-earnings poor health group and a remaining good health group. Attempts to target a subset of badly disadvantaged workers by altering the benefit rules that apply equally to everyone could both miss the intended target and introduce work disincentives into a program currently designed to reward work.

The Out-of-Sample Performance of Stochastic Methods in Forecasting Age-Specific Mortality Rates
ORES Working Paper No. 111 (released August 2008)
by Javier Meseguer

This paper evaluates the out-of-sample performance of two stochastic models used to forecast age-specific mortality rates: (1) the model proposed by Lee and Carter (1992); and (2) a set of univariate autoregressions linked together by a common residual covariance matrix (Denton, Feavor, and Spencer 2005).

Trends in Mortality Differentials and Life Expectancy for Male Social Security-Covered Workers, by Socioeconomic Status
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 3 (released April 2008)
by Hilary Waldron

This article presents an analysis of trends in mortality differentials and life expectancy by socioeconomic status for male Social Security-covered workers aged 60 or older. Mortality differentials, cohort life expectancies, and period life expectancies by average relative earnings are estimated. Period life expectancy estimates for the United States are also compared with those of other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

Trends in Mortality Differentials and Life Expectancy for Male Social Security–Covered Workers, by Average Relative Earnings
ORES Working Paper No. 108 (released October 2007)
by Hilary Waldron

This study presents an analysis of trends in mortality differentials and life expectancy by average relative earnings for male Social Security–covered workers aged 60 or older. Mortality differentials, cohort life expectancies, and period life expectancies by average relative earnings are estimated. Period life expectancy estimates for the United States are also compared with those of other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. In general, for birth cohorts spanning the years 1912–1941 (or deaths spanning the years 1972–2001 at ages 60–89), the top half of the average relative earnings distribution has experienced faster mortality improvement than has the bottom half. The sample is expected to be selectively healthier than the general population because of a requirement that men included in the sample have some positive earnings from ages 45 through 55. This requirement is expected to exclude some of the most at-risk members of the U.S. population because of the strong correlation between labor force participation and health.

Literature Review of Long-Term Mortality Projections
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 66, No. 1 (released September 2005)
by Hilary Waldron

The Board of Trustees of the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trust Funds reports on the current and projected future financial status of the trust funds annually. The Trustees project trust fund finances 75 years into the future. Mortality is one key demographic assumption that feeds into these long-range projections. This article reviews a range of predictions about long-term mortality improvement and assesses where the Trustees' 75-year mortality projection falls within this range. In general, the predictions of future mortality declines in the 2004 Social Security Trustees Report tend to be in the mainstream of professional actuarial and international official government opinion and to be lower than the majority of the small group of demographers who produce comparable estimates.

Mortality Differentials by Race
ORES Working Paper No. 99 (released December 2002)
by Hilary Waldron

In the 2001 report of the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, the commission states that blacks "on average have both lower incomes and shorter life expectancies than other Americans." This paper examines the extent to which the shorter life expectancies of blacks are explained by differences between their average socioeconomic status and that of other Americans.

Estimates in this paper for men aged 25 to 64 show that about half of the difference in risk of death between blacks and all other races was explained by education level—the measure of socioeconomic status employed. At ages 65 to 90, black men were not found to have a significantly higher risk of death than men of all other races.

Do Early Retirees Die Early? Evidence from Three Independent Data Sets
ORES Working Paper No. 97 (released July 2002)
by Hilary Waldron

In a 2001 working paper, Links Between Early Retirement and Mortality (ORES Working Paper No. 93), the author used cross-sectional Current Population Survey (CPS) matched to longitudinal Social Security administration data and found that men who retire early die sooner than men who retire at age 65 or older. Estimates of relative mortality risk control for current age, year of birth, education, marital status in 1973, and race, and the sample is restricted to men who have lived to at least age 65.

This paper uses the 1982 New Beneficiary Survey and a 1 percent extract of the Social Security Administration's year 2000 Master Beneficiary Records to test whether the mortality differentials reported in the author's earlier work can be replicated in other independent data sets.

Links Between Early Retirement and Mortality
ORES Working Paper No. 93 (released August 2001)
by Hilary Waldron

In this paper, the author uses the 1973 cross-sectional Current Population Survey (CPS) matched to longitudinal Social Security administrative data (through 1998) to examine the relationship between retirement age and mortality for men who have lived to at least age 65 by 1997 or earlier. Logistic regression results indicate that controlling for current age, year of birth, education, marital status in 1973, and race, men who retire early die sooner than men who retire at age 65 or older. A positive correlation between age of retirement and life expectancy may suggest that retirement age is correlated with health in the 1973 CPS; however, the 1973 CPS data do not provide the ability to test that hypothesis directly.

Mortality and Income Inequality Among Economically Developed Countries
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 58, No. 2 (released April 1995)
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.

Occupational Experience and Socioeconomic Variations in Mortality
ORES Working Paper No. 65 (released February 1995)
by Harriet Orcutt Duleep

This paper explores the extent to which occupational experience is responsible for the adverse effect of low income and education on mortality. Using Current Population Survey data on education and disability matched to Social Security data on earnings, disability, and mortality, this question is pursued by examining how the estimated effects of income and education are affected once occupational experience is included in the mortality model. The inclusion of various occupational experience variables, as measured in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the National Occupational Hazards Survey, has virtually no effect on the estimated effects of income and education on mortality. These findings suggest that the high mortality of low-income and poorly educated persons is not due to characteristics of their employment but to other aspects associated with poverty.

The Hazard of Mortality Among Aging Retired- and Disabled-Worker Men: A Comparative Sociodemographic and Health Status Analysis
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 57, No. 3 (released July 1994)
by John L. McCoy, Howard M. Iams, and Timothy Armstrong
Predictors of Mortality Among Newly Retired Workers
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 54, No. 3 (released March 1991)
by Howard M. Iams and John L. McCoy
Life Expectancy and Health Status of the Aged
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 49, No. 10 (released October 1986)
by Steven H. Chapman, Mitchell P. LaPlante, and Gail Wilensky
Mortality and Early Retirement
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 12 (released December 1982)
Mortality of Older Widows and Wives
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 10 (released October 1982)
by Bertram Kestenbaum, Greg Diez, Marvin Younger, and Howard Shiman
Mortality Reporting in SSA Linked Data: Preliminary Results
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 11 (released November 1979)
by Wendy Alvey and Faye Aziz
Mortality of Workers Insured Under OASDI, 1955
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 24, No. 7 (released July 1961)
by Robert J. Myers
Mortality After Retirement
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 17, No. 6 (released June 1954)
by Robert J. Myers