Urban InstituteRetirement Policy Center

Social Security

 

Social Security now pays out more in benefits than it receives in payroll taxes. The system's trustees expect this shortfall to persist for the foreseeable future unless Congress cuts benefits, raises taxes, or both. Our research examines Social Security's role in retirement income security, its impact on the federal budget, and the likely effect of proposed reforms.


 
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Children and Youth in an Aging America (Research Report)
Nan Astone, Allison Stolte, Steven Martin, Kaitlin Franks, H. Elizabeth Peters, Rolf Pendall, Austin Nichols

Across the United States, both the elder population-those older than 64-and the younger population-those younger than 20-will grow over the next 15 years. The growth of the elder population is ubiquitous, and the growth of the younger population is more geographically variable. We consider the implications of this growth for generational balance across the United States, using an average scenario of America's future. Areas with growing populations will need to invest resources in a young population growing apace and an elder population growing faster than the overall population.

Posted: January 20, 2015Availability: HTML | PDF

Methodology and Assumptions for the Mapping America's Futures Project (Research Report)
Austin Nichols, Steven Martin, Kaitlin Franks

The Mapping America's Futures project has developed multiple series of population projections for 740 commuting zones in the United States by age, race, and ethnicity. This brief explains the assumptions and methodology of our population projections.

Posted: January 20, 2015Availability: HTML | PDF

Can California Teacher Pensions Be Distributed More Fairly? (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has been grossly underfunded for the past decade. State policymakers have responded by cutting plan benefits for new hires and raising teachers’ required plan contributions. These changes, however, have undermined teachers’ retirement income security. Only 35 percent of new hires will receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Most new hires would have better financial outcomes if they could opt out of the mandatory retirement plan and invest their contributions elsewhere. Additional plan reforms should focus on changing the benefit formula to distribute pensions more equitably across the workforce.

Posted: December 05, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

Aging Behind Bars: Trends and Implications of Graying Prisoners in the Federal Prison System (Research Report)
KiDeuk Kim, Bryce Peterson

This new Urban Institute study provides an in-depth examination of the growth patterns in the largest correctional system in the United States—the US Bureau of Prisons. The number of prisoners age 50 or older experienced a 330 percent increase from 1994 to 2011. The authors find that the proportion of these older prisoners is expected to have an even steeper growth curve in the near future and they may consume a disproportionately large amount of the federal prison budget. Recommendations for policy and research include expanding data-driven knowledge on older prisoners and developing cost-effective management plans for them.

Posted: September 05, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

Assessing Pension Benefits Paid under Pennsylvania's State Employees' Retirement System (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Pennsylvania’s pension plan for state employees receives a failing grade in the Urban Institute’s state and local pension plan report card, and ranks as the third-worst plan in the nation covering newly hired general state employees. The plan scores poorly because it is inadequately funded, it penalizes work at older ages by reducing lifetime benefits for older employees, and it provides few retirement benefits to short-term employees. Age-25 hires must work 32 years before they accumulate rights to future pension benefits worth more than their required plan contributions. Various pension reforms could distribute benefits more equitably across the workforce.

Posted: September 04, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

Evaluating Retirement Income Security for Illinois Public School Teachers (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Benjamin G. Southgate

The financial problems afflicting Illinois’s teacher pension plan have grabbed headlines. An equally important problem, though underappreciated, is that relatively few teachers benefit much from the plan. Long-serving teachers receive generous pensions, but only 18 percent of teachers remain employed for at least 25 years. Only 24 percent of those who complete at least five years of service receive pensions worth more than the value of their required plan contributions. Alternative plan designs, such as cash balance plans, could distribute benefits more equitably and put more teachers on a path to a financially secure retirement.

Posted: July 30, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

What Every Worker Needs to Know About an Unreformed Social Security System (Testimony)
C. Eugene Steuerle

In this testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Social Security, Eugene Steuerle, Institute Fellow and Richard B. Fisher Chair at the Urban Institute discusses the fairness, efficiency and adequacy questions that arise almost no matter how much growth Congress maintains in Social Security. In particular he addresses three troubling aspects of an otherwise successful program: unequal justice; middle age retirement; and impact on the young.

Posted: July 29, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

Flattening Tax Incentives for Retirement Saving (Research Report)
Barbara Butrica, Benjamin H. Harris, Pamela Perun, C. Eugene Steuerle

Under current law, a large share of tax benefits for retirement saving accrues to high-income employees. We simulate the short- and long-term effect of three policy options for flattening tax incentives and increasing retirement savings for low- and middle-income workers. Our results show that reducing 401(k) contribution limits increases taxes for high-income taxpayers; expanding the saver's credit raises saving incentives and lower taxes for low- and middle-income taxpayers; and replacing the exclusion for retirement saving contributions with a 25 percent refundable credit benefits primarily low- and middle-income taxpayers, and raises taxes and reduces retirement assets for high-income taxpayers.

Posted: June 30, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

Policy Brief: How Will Teachers Fare in Rhode Island's New Hybrid Pension Plan? (Summary)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

Hybrid retirement plans that combine defined benefit pensions with 401(k) type, defined contribution accounts can play important roles in the reform of public-sector pensions. Summarizing results from our longer report, this brief shows that most public school teachers in Rhode Island will earn more retirement income from the state’s new hybrid plan than they would have earned in the former stand-alone defined benefit plan. However, teachers with at least 25 years of completed service, who account for only one-quarter of the total employed by the state, will fare worse in the hybrid plan.

Posted: May 30, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

How Will Rhode Island's New Hybrid Pension Plan Affect Teachers? (Research Report)
Richard W. Johnson, Barbara Butrica, Owen Haaga, Benjamin G. Southgate

In 2011 Rhode Island replaced the stand-alone defined benefit pension plan it provided to state employees with a hybrid plan that reduced the defined benefit component and added a 401(k)-type, defined contribution component. Although controversial, the new hybrid plan will boost retirement incomes for most of the state’s public school teachers. Our simulations show that two-thirds of newly hired teachers will earn more retirement benefits under the hybrid plan they would have earned under the old plan. Defined contribution plans—the dominant employer-sponsored retirement plan in the private sector—can play an important role in the reform of public-sector pensions.

Posted: May 30, 2014Availability: HTML | PDF

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