Selected Research & Analysis: Retirement Income > Replacement Rates

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How Do Trends in Women's Labor Force Activity and Marriage Patterns Affect Social Security Replacement Rates?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 4 (released November 2013)
by April Yanyuan Wu, Nadia S. Karamcheva, Alicia H. Munnell, and Patrick J. Purcell

Changes in the role of women in the economy and in the family have affected both the amount and the type of Social Security benefits they receive in retirement. Women's labor force participation rate increased from less than 40 percent in 1950 to more than 70 percent in 2011. Over much of the same period, marriage rates fell and divorce rates rose. This article examines how women's higher earnings and lower marriage rates have affected Social Security replacement rates over time for individuals and for households.

Income Replacement Ratios in the Health and Retirement Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 3 (released August 2012)
by Patrick J. Purcell

Income typically falls in retirement, and the timing and extent of that decline concerns policymakers. If income from Social Security, pensions, and savings do not allow retirees to maintain their desired standard of living, they will face difficult and perhaps unexpected choices about reducing or eliminating certain kinds of expenditures. The income replacement ratio—retirement income expressed as a percentage of preretirement income—has become a familiar metric for assessing the adequacy of retirement income. This article presents the income replacement ratios experienced by members of the original sample cohort of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), who were born between 1931 and 1941. Median replacement ratios among this sample fall as the retirement period grows longer.

This Is Not Your Parents' Retirement: Comparing Retirement Income Across Generations
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 1 (released February 2012)
by Barbara A. Butrica, Karen E. Smith, and Howard M. Iams

This article examines how retirement income at age 67 is likely to change for baby boomers and generation Xers compared with current retirees. The authors use the Modeling Income in the Near Term model to project retirement income, assets, poverty rates, and replacement rates for current and future retirees at age 67. In absolute terms, retirement incomes of future cohorts will increase over time, and poverty rates will fall. However, projected income gains are larger for high than for low socioeconomic groups, leading to increased income inequality among future retirees.

Distributional Effects of Price Indexing Social Security Benefits
Policy Brief No. 2010-03 (released November 2010)
by Mark A. Sarney

This policy brief compares five options (four progressive price indexing and one full price indexing option) set forth by the Social Security Advisory Board to index initial benefits to price growth. It examines the distribution of benefits of Social Security beneficiaries aged 62 or older in 2030, 2050, and 2070 using Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) model projections. The brief finds that the full price indexing option Shield 0% would more than achieve long-term solvency by reducing benefits by about 35 percent in 2070 and would increase the aged poverty rate compared with scheduled levels. The four progressive price indexing options (Shields 30%, 40%, 50%, 60%) would produce smaller benefit reductions by exempting varying proportions of lower earners from price indexing. Those options would not increase poverty above scheduled levels, but would reduce benefits for some low earners because their auxiliary benefits come from the reduced benefits of a higher-earning spouse. The progressive price indexing options would make Social Security more progressive compared with scheduled and payable benefits, both when looking at household benefit reductions by household income in a given year and when examining the distribution of lifetime taxes and benefits.

Distributional Effects of Reducing the Social Security Benefit Formula
Policy Brief No. 2010-02 (released November 2010)
by Glenn R. Springstead

A person's Social Security benefit, or primary insurance amount (PIA), is 90 percent of the lowest portion of lifetime earnings, plus 32 percent of the middle portion of lifetime earnings, plus 15 percent of the highest portion of lifetime earnings. This policy brief analyzes the distributional effects of three options (the three-point, five-point and upper) discussed by the Social Security Advisory Board to reduce the PIA. The first option would reduce the PIA by 3 percentage points; the second would reduce it by 5 percentage points; and the third would reduce the 32 and 15 percentages of the PIA to 21 and 10 percent, respectively. The third option would exempt about one quarter of the lowest earning beneficiaries, while reducing benefits by a median average of 19 percent in 2070. None would eliminate Social Security's long-term fiscal imbalance, although the third option would eliminate more (76 percent) of the deficit than the three-point (18 percent) and five-point (31 percent) options.

A Progressivity Index for Social Security
Issue Paper No. 2009-01 (released January 2009)
by Andrew G. Biggs, Mark A. Sarney, and Christopher R. Tamborini

Using the Social Security Administration's MINT (Modeling Income in the Near Term) model, this paper analyzes the progressivity of the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program for current and future retirees. It uses a progressivity index that provides a summary measure of the distribution of taxes and benefits on a lifetime basis. Results indicate that OASDI lies roughly halfway between a flat replacement rate and a flat dollar benefit for current retirees. Projections suggest that progressivity will remain relatively similar for future retirees. In addition, the paper estimates the effects of several policy changes on progressivity for future retirees.

Alternate Measures of Replacement Rates for Social Security Benefits and Retirement Income
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 2 (released October 2008)
by Andrew G. Biggs and Glenn R. Springstead

Replacement rates are common and useful tools used by individuals and policy analysts to plan for retirement and assess the sufficiency of Social Security benefits and overall retirement income. Because the calculation and meaning of replacement rates differs depending on the definition of preretirement earnings, this article examines four alternative measures: final preretirement earnings, constant income payable from the present value of lifetime earnings (PV payment), wage-indexed average of lifetime earnings, and inflation-adjusted average of lifetime earnings (CPI average). The article also calculates replacement rates for Social Security beneficiaries aged 64–66 in 2005.

Projections of Economic Well-Being for Social Security Beneficiaries in 2022 and 2062
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 66, No. 4 (released April 2007)
by Barbara A. Butrica, David B. Cashin, and Cori E. Uccello

This article assesses the prospects for retirement security among Social Security beneficiaries in 2022 and 2062. In absolute terms, beneficiaries in 2062 will be better off than those in 2022, at least assuming Social Security benefits scheduled under current law. Relative measures of well-being, however, suggest a decline in well-being between 2022 and 2062. Projected improvements over time would lessen, and declines would be exacerbated, if Social Security benefits are reduced according to what is payable under current-law taxes.

The Changing Impact of Social Security on Retirement Income in the United States
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 3 (released January 2005)
by Barbara A. Butrica, Howard M. Iams, and Karen E. Smith

This article assesses the role of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the economic well-being of baby-boomer retirees and their predecessors. The results suggest that, similar to current retirees, Social Security will account for about two-fifths of projected income for baby-boomer retirees. On average, SSI will contribute almost nothing to total income and will be received by fewer baby-boomer retirees than by current retirees. Although baby boomers can expect higher incomes and lower poverty rates at retirement than current retirees have, they can also expect lower replacement rates. The decline in replacement rates is driven, in part, by a decline in Social Security replacement rates.

Comparing Replacement Rates Under Private and Federal Retirement Systems
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 1 (released May 2004)
by Patricia P. Martin

This article presents a comparison of replacement rates for employees of medium and large private establishments to replacement rates for federal employees under the Civil Service Retirement System and the Federal Employees Retirement System. This analysis shows the possibility of replacement rates exceeding 100 percent for FERS employees who contribute 6 percent of earnings to the Thrift Savings Plan over a full working career. Private-sector replacement rates were quite similar for workers with both a defined benefit and a defined contribution pension plan.

Earnings Replacement Rates of New Retired Workers
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 10 (released October 1990)
by Susan Grad
Commentary: Earnings Replacement Rate of Old-Age Benefits: An International Comparison
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 8 (released August 1988)
by Max Horlick
The Earnings Replacement Rate of Old-Age Benefits: An International Comparison
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 51, No. 8 (released August 1988)
by Max Horlick
The Earnings Replacement Rate of Old-Age Benefits in 12 Countries, 1969–80
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 11 (released November 1982)
by Jonathan Aldrich
Earnings Replacement Rates and Total Income: Findings From the Retirement History Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 10 (released October 1982)
by Alan Fox
Earnings Replacement Rates of Retired Couples: Findings From the Retirement History Study
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 42, No. 1 (released January 1979)
by Alan Fox
Earnings-Replacement Rate of Old-Age Benefits, 1965–75, Selected Countries
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 41, No. 1 (released January 1978)
by Leif Haanes-Olsen
Earnings Replacement Rate of Old-Age Pensions for Workers Retiring at End of 1972
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 37, No. 12 (released December 1974)
by Leif Haanes-Olsen and Max Horlick
The Earnings Replacement Rate of Old-Age Benefits: An International Comparison
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 33, No. 3 (released March 1970)
by Max Horlick