Aging authorities differ on tweaks to Social Security's benefit structure

Aug 29, 2011

Experts agree that financial constraints and an aging population will require America to modify its Social Security system, but some also find that pushing back the eligibility age could be a major concern for those who rely on the program the most. The consequences — both positive and negative — of making the country's seniors wait to start claiming benefits are presented in the latest installment of the Public Policy & Report (PPAR) from the National Academy on an Aging Society, the policy institute of The Gerontological Society of America (GSA).

The articles in the new PPAR, titled "To Raise or not To Raise: The Social Security Retirement Age," reflect the interdisciplinary strengths of GSA's membership; the authors offer the perspectives of biologists, social scientists, women, and other minorities.

"Older workers say they want and expect to work in retirement, and the proportion remaining in the labor force at older ages has been growing," said GSA Public Policy Chair Sara Rix, PhD. "Workers are not, however, necessarily enthusiastic about being required to wait longer to receive their full Social Security benefits, a fact that policymakers will want to keep in mind as they grapple with the pros and cons of raising the retirement age."

The earliest age at which an individual can claim Social Security benefits is now 62. Those born after 1960 can receive full benefits at age 67. Since the program began in 1935, the average life expectancy in the U.S. has increased by almost 16 years, with life expectancy at age 65 increasing by nearly five years. Similarly, the PPAR points out that the share of seniors reporting themselves in poor health has also dropped over the past several decades. One article in the issue demonstrates that delaying retirement can have physical and financial benefits, pointing to studies that show that working longer can reduce morbidity and improve health. When people work longer, they generate additional payroll and income tax revenue and reduce the Social Security deficit.

"Fostering longer work lives can be a win-win situation for workers, employers, and the economy," Rix said. "However, raising the age of eligibility for would be a benefit cut with a disproportionate impact on some of society's most vulnerable older workers.

The PPAR finds that increasing the normal retirement age could be detrimental to a number of women, minorities, and low-income workers, especially if their occupations become too physically demanding in old . In addition, the system may prove unfair to African Americans who typically have shorter lifespans than Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, and who thus would pay years into a system from which they might not benefit for as long.

Explore further: Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

Provided by The Gerontological Society of America

not rated yet
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New guide explores making the most of Social Security

Sep 04, 2008

Many older Americans may be shortchanging their golden years by tapping into Social Security too soon, according to a University of Illinois expert who has studied the federal retirement program for nearly two decades.

Shaky financial ground awaits many American retirees

Aug 16, 2007

The burden of long-term economic security in the United States is moving away from employers and the government onto the shoulders of workers - a transformation that Yale University political scientist Jacob Hacker calls ...

Recommended for you

Why are UK teenagers skipping school?

6 hours ago

Analysis of the results of a large-scale survey reveals the extent of truancy in English secondary schools and sheds light on the mental health of the country's teens.

Fewer lectures, more group work

6 hours ago

Professor Cees van der Vleuten from Maastricht University is a Visiting Professor at Wits University who believes that learning should be student centred.

How to teach all students to think critically

7 hours ago

All first year students at the University of Technology Sydney could soon be required to take a compulsory maths course in an attempt to give them some numerical thinking skills. ...

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

23 hours ago

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.