Selected Research & Analysis: Socioeconomic Characteristics > Wealth

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Middle Class Beneficiaries, 2014
Population Profile (released March 2017)
Poverty Among the Aged Population: The Role of Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenditures and Annuitized Assets in Supplemental Poverty Measure Estimates
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 78, No. 1 (released February 2018)
by Koji Chavez, Christopher Wimer, David M. Betson, and Lucas Manfield

The Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) does not account for the aged population's ability to draw from asset principal to cover living expenses. In this article, the authors ask two questions: (1) How much can we conservatively expect the aged to withdraw from their assets annually, and (2) To what extent would the inclusion of such assets alter the estimated proportion of the aged in SPM poverty—specifically, the proportion of the aged who are “pushed” into SPM poverty because of their medical out-of-pocket expenditures?

Immigrants and Retirement Resources
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 74, No. 1 (released February 2014)
by Purvi Sevak and Lucie Schmidt

In this article, the authors use the Health and Retirement Study to compare retirement resources of the foreign born with those of the native born. They find that immigrants have significantly lower Social Security benefit levels than natives; however, after controlling for demographic characteristics immigrants have higher levels of net worth. The immigrant/native differential in retirement resources varies systematically by number of years in the United States.

Disability Shocks Near Retirement Age and Financial Well-Being
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 73, No. 3 (released August 2013)
by Irena Dushi and Kalman Rupp

Using Health and Retirement Study data, the authors examine three groups of adults aged 51–56 in 1992 with different disability experiences over the following 8 years. Our analysis reveals three major findings. First, people who started and stayed nondisabled experienced stable financial security, with substantial improvement in household wealth despite substantial labor force withdrawal. Second, people who started as nondisabled but suffered a disability shock experienced a substantial increase in poverty rates and a sharp decline in median incomes. Average earnings loss was the greatest for that group, with public and private benefits replacing less than half of the loss, whereas the reduction in private health insurance coverage was more than alleviated by the increase in public health insurance coverage. Third, people who started and stayed disabled were behind at the baseline and have fallen further behind on most measures. An important exception is substantial improvement in health insurance coverage because of public safety nets.

How Did the Recession of 2007–2009 Affect the Wealth and Retirement of the Near Retirement Age Population in the Health and Retirement Study?
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72, No. 4 (released November 2012)
by Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier, and Nahid Tabatabai

This article uses household wealth and labor market data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to investigate how the recent "Great Recession" has affected the wealth and retirement of the Early Boomer cohort, those in the population who were just approaching retirement age at the beginning of the recession. The retirement wealth of people aged 53–58 before the onset of the recession in 2006 declined by a relatively modest 2.8 percent by 2010. For members of older cohorts, wealth had increased by about 5 percent over a comparable age span. The wealth holdings of poorer households were least affected by the recession. Relative losses were greatest for those who initially had the highest wealth when the recession began. The retirement behavior of the Early Boomer cohort looks similar, at least to date, to the behavior observed for members of older cohorts at comparable ages.

Measures of Health and Economic Well-Being Among American Indians and Alaska Natives Aged 62 or Older in 2030
Research and Statistics Note No. 2012-02 (released February 2012)
by Amy Dunaway-Knight, Melissa A. Z. Knoll, Dave Shoffner, and Kevin Whitman

This Research and Statistics Note uses Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) projections to provide an overview of the demographic, health, and economic characteristics of the American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) population aged 62 or older in 2030. MINT projects that the AIAN population will fare worse than the overall aged population in 2030 according to measures of health status, work limitation status, disability status, lifetime earnings, per capita Social Security benefits, per capita income, per capita wealth, and poverty.

Retiring in Debt? An Update on the 2007 Near-Retiree Cohort
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 4 (released November 2010)
by Chris E. Anguelov and Christopher R. Tamborini

This research note uses 2007 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) data to update work reported in an earlier article, "Retiring in Debt? Differences between the 1995 and 2004 Near-Retiree Cohorts." The analysis documents whether there have been changes in the debt holdings of near-retirees in 2007, a point in time reflecting the start of the recent financial and economic crisis, relative to 2004. Results show that near-retirees' debt levels in 2007 were modestly higher than in 2004, overall and across a number of subgroups. The results do not capture the full impact of the financial crisis, which manifested at the end of 2007 and in 2008.

Low Levels of Retirement Resources in the Near-Elderly Time Period and Future Participation in Means-Tested Programs
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 70, No. 1 (released February 2010)
by Alexander Strand

This article describes the de facto standards of low income and resources reflected in the eligibility standards of the largest means-tested programs that serve the elderly and then applies these standards to a near-elderly cohort. Through juxtaposing retirement resources in the near-elderly time period with program participation in the elderly time period, the author indirectly examines some of the changes between the two time periods that could affect program eligibility, including spend-down of resources and marital dissolution. Retirement resource levels are estimated using the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and subsequent participation in one of the means-tested programs—Supplemental Security Income (SSI)—is examined using matched administrative records.

Retiring in Debt? Differences between the 1995 and 2004 Near-Retiree Cohorts
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69, No. 2 (released July 2009)
by Chris E. Anguelov and Christopher R. Tamborini

This article uses the U.S. Federal Reserve Board's Survey of Consumer Finances to examine near retirees' (aged 50 to 61) debt holdings in 1995 and 2004. Employing a variety of measures on household borrowing, our results show that near retirees in 2004—the leading edge of the baby-boom cohort—had more consumer and housing debt than their counterparts in 1995. We observe a modest increase in the median debt service and debt-to-assets ratios between the two cohorts, but no statistical difference in their respective average. Analysis of several demographic and socioeconomic subgroups reveals certain population segments, such as single female households, with significantly higher debt service ratios in 2004.

Cohort Differences in Wealth and Pension Participation of Near-Retirees
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 68, No. 3 (released December 2008)
by Irena Dushi and Howard M. Iams

This article examines pension participation and nonpension net worth of two cohorts of near retirees. Particularly, the authors look at people born in 1933 through 1939 who were ages 55–61 in 1994, and the more recent cohort consisting of people of the same age in 2004 who were born in 1943 through 1949. Data are from the Health and Retirement Study, a longitudinal, nationally representative survey of older Americans.

Benefit Adequacy Among Elderly Social Security Retired-Worker Beneficiaries and the SSI Federal Benefit Rate
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 3 (released April 2008)
by Kalman Rupp, Alexander Strand, Paul S. Davies, and James Sears

The federal benefit rate (FBR) of the Supplemental Security Income program provides an inflation-indexed income guarantee for aged and disabled people with low assets. Some consider the FBR as an attractive measure of Social Security benefit adequacy. Others propose the FBR as an administratively simple, well-targeted minimum Social Security benefit. However, these claims have not been empirically tested. Using microdata from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, this article finds that the FBR is an imprecise measure of benefit adequacy; it incorrectly identifies as economically vulnerable many who are not poor, and disregards some who are poor. The reason for this is that the FBR-level benefit threshold of adequacy considers the Social Security benefit in isolation and ignores the family consumption unit. The FBR would provide an administratively simple but poorly targeted foundation for a minimum Social Security benefit. The empirical estimates quantify the substantial tradeoffs between administrative simplicity and target effectiveness.

The Never-Married in Old Age: Projections and Concerns for the Near Future
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 67, No. 2 (released February 2008)
by Christopher R. Tamborini

This article focuses on a growing yet understudied subgroup of the elderly in the United States—the never-married. The first section, based on data from the Current Population Survey and a review of the academic literature, examines the current circumstances of never-married retirees, particularly their economic and health well-being. The succeeding section uses the Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT) model to assess the projected (1) changes in the marital status composition of the future retirement-age population; (2) demographics of future never-married retirees, and (3) economic well-being of never-married retirees. The results highlight important links between marital trends, Social Security, and retirement outcomes and offer insight into some of the characteristics of current and future never-married retirees.

Executive Summary from—Survey Estimates of Wealth: A Comparative Analysis and Review of the Survey of Income and Program Participation
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65, No. 1 (released May 2004)
by John L. Czajka, Jonathan E. Jacobson, and Scott Cody
Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth and Asset Choices
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 4 (released June 2003)
by Sharmila Choudhury

Analysis of the wealth held by white, black, and Hispanic households points to differences in saving behavior, notably a disinclination on the part of minority households to invest in riskier, higher-yielding financial assets. This finding may account for some of the great disparities in wealth across racial and ethnic groups that cannot be explained by income and demographic factors.

Retirement and Wealth
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 64, No. 2 (released September 2002)
by Alan L. Gustman and Thomas L. Steinmeier

This article analyzes the relationship between retirement and wealth. Using data from the first four waves of the longitudinal Health and Retirement Study—a cohort of individuals born from 1931 to 1941—we estimate reduced-form retirement and wealth equations. Our results show that those who retire earlier do not necessarily save more and that even if one's primary interest is in the relationship between Social Security policy and the decision to retire, it is important to incorporate saving behavior and other key decisions into the analysis.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Wealth Holdings and Portfolio Choices
ORES Working Paper No. 95 (released April 2002)
by Sharmila Choudhury

There are large differences in wealth across racial and ethnic groups, much of which remain unexplained even after controlling for income and demographic factors. This paper studies the issue of whether differences in saving behavior and rates of return on assets are a possible source of the differences in wealth. It uses data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine the differences in various components of aggregate wealth (including nonhousing equity, housing equity, financial assets, and risky assets) and to inspect differences in portfolio choices by race and ethnicity.

Descriptive tabulations of components of aggregate wealth and portfolio choices shown here point to differences between white and minority households in their saving behavior and choice of assets. These findings suggest that some of the large differences in wealth across racial and ethnic groups that remain unexplained even after controlling for income and demographic factors, may be attributable to the smaller participation in financial markets by minority households.

Divorced Women at Retirement: Projections of Economic Well-Being in the Near Future
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 63, No. 3 (released July 2001)
by Barbara A. Butrica and Howard M. Iams

This article describes the economic resources and economic well-being of future divorced women at retirement using data from the Social Security Administration's project on Modeling Income in the Near Term (MINT). The MINT model projects that in the near term, there will be more divorced women of retirement age. Because fewer of those women are projected to meet the 10-year marriage requirement, the proportion of economically vulnerable aged women is expected to increase when the baby boom retires.

The Economic Well-Being of the Old Old: Family Unit Income and Household Wealth
ORES Working Paper No. 58 (released February 1993)
by Daniel B. Radner

This paper examines the family income and the household wealth and income of old old persons. Subgroups of the old old are compared, and the old old are compared with the young old. When the old old group is separated into three subgroups—widows living alone, other females, and males—the economic status of widows living alone is substantially below that of the other two subgroups. This difference is found when income, wealth, and combined income-wealth measures are used. When the old old group is compared with the young old group, the economic status of the old old is substantially lower for all measures examined. When the three subgroups within both the old old and young old groups are compared, the economic status of each subgroup is lower for the old old for most measures. Income data from the March 1991 Current Population Survey and wealth and income data from the 1984 Survey of Income and Program Participation are used.

Economic Well-Being of the Old Old: Family Unit Income and Household Wealth
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 56, No. 1 (released January 1993)
by Daniel B. Radner
Assessing the Economic Status of the Aged and Nonaged Using Alternative Income-Wealth Measures
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 53, No. 3 (released March 1990)
by Daniel B. Radner
Alternative Estimates of Economic Well-Being by Age Using Data on Wealth and Income
ORES Working Paper No. 42 (released March 1990)
by Daniel B. Radner

Most analyses of economic status use only income as the measure of resources. It is clear, however, that wealth also plays an important role in economic well-being. The existence of both income and asset tests for eligibility purposes in several government transfer programs (e.g., Supplemental Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps) suggests the importance of both wealth and income. Units of the same age, income, and needs are not equally well off if they have different amounts of wealth. A fully satisfactory way of taking differences in wealth into account in a combined income-wealth measure is not available. Particularly controversial is the comparison of different age groups when such measures are used. This exploratory paper examines the use of income-wealth measures for the analysis of the distribution of economic well-being for age groups in the current period.

Net Worth and Financial Assets of Age Groups in 1984
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 3 (released March 1989)
by Daniel B. Radner
Income and Assets of Social Security Beneficiaries by Type of Benefit
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 52, No. 1 (released January 1989)
by Susan Grad
The Wealth of the Aged and Nonaged, 1984
ORES Working Paper No. 36 (released January 1988)
by Daniel B. Radner

This paper discusses and illustrates the use of wealth data for the analysis of the economic status of households. Selected estimates of wealth for 1984 from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) are used as illustrations. The particular focus is on the wealth of age groups, with a special interest in the aged. Comparisons of the amounts and composition of wealth of the aged and nonaged (and of more detailed age groups) are presented. The emphasis is on the economic resources available to households other than the very wealthy. The degree of concentration of wealth, the subject that wealth data traditionally have been used to examine, is not discussed. Thus, this paper reflects a somewhat different perspective on the use of wealth data.

Assets of New Retired-Worker Beneficiaries: Findings From the New Beneficiary Survey
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 48, No. 7 (released July 1985)
by Sally R. Sherman
The Joint Distribution of Wealth and Income for Age Groups, 1979
ORES Working Paper No. 33 (released March 1984)
by Daniel B. Radner and Denton R. Vaughan

This paper examines the economic well-being of age groups in the U.S. using data on both income and wealth. Although income will be discussed, we will focus on wealth in order to exploit relatively current data on wealth that have become available recently.

Assets of the Elderly as They Retire
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 1 (released January 1981)
by Joseph Friedman and Jane Sjogren
Assets on the Threshold of Retirement
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 36, No. 8 (released August 1973)
by Sally R. Sherman
Homeownership and Financial Assets: Findings from the 1968 Survey of the Aged
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 8 (released August 1972)
by Janet H. Murray
Income-Net Worth Measures of Economic Welfare
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 32, No. 11 (released November 1969)
by Dorothy S. Projector and Gertrude S. Weiss
Assets of the Aged in 1962: Findings of the 1963 Survey of the Aged
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 27, No. 11 (released November 1964)
by Leon D. Platky
Voluntary Agency Expenditures for Health and Welfare From Philanthropic Contributions, 1930–55
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 21, No. 2 (released February 1958)
by Thomas Karter
Social Welfare Today
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 15, No. 4 (released April 1952)
by Arthur J. Altmeyer