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Social Security and Retirement Dynamics
by Alan L. Gustman and Thomas L. Steinmeier
WP 2006-121

This paper is based on a structural model of retirement and saving, estimated with data for a sample of married men in the Health and Retirement Study. It explains the relation of specific features of Social Security -- the benefit amount, the early entitlement age, the normal retirement age, earnings test parameters, and the delayed retirement credit -- to the full range of retirement outcomes -- continued work on the main job, full time work outside the main job after a period of partial or full retirement, as well as partial retirement and full retirement. The project also estimates the relation of Social Security to the flows among these states. We consider not only the effect of Social Security on movement from states of greater to lesser work, the probability of either moving from full time work to partial retirement or directly to full retirement, or from partial retirement to full retirement, but the reverse flows from states of lesser work to states of greater work.

The largest effects of the policies examined are from increasing the early entitlement age from 62 to 64 and reducing benefits to 75 percent of their promised levels, the approximate amount benefits would have to be reduced when the trust fund runs out if there are no changes in funding. With the older early entitlement age, about 5 percent more of the population continues to work full time at their main job at 62 and 63 than would otherwise. In addition, another 4.5 percent of the male population works full time after having retired, as does another 4 percent at age 63. Partial retirement is reduced at ages 62 and 63 by about 3 percentage points when the early entitlement age is 64. Overall, complete retirements are about 6 percentage points lower at 62 and 63 when the early retirement age is higher. From age 64 on, the percent completely retired is about two percentage points lower in each year when the early entitlement age is 64 rather than 62.

The effects of reducing promised Social Security benefits by about a quarter are also large. The probability of remaining on the main job is higher for those in their sixties, with the difference ranging from 3 to 5 percentage points for those ages 62 and older. At each year of age, an additional 1 percentage point will be in full time work after having retired. There is little difference in the fraction partially retired, so the probability of being fully retired is reduced by 4 to 6 percentage points when benefits are reduced by a quarter.

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