Research and Analysis by Sharmila Choudhury

Analysis of Social Security Proposals Intended to Help Women: Preliminary Results
ORES Working Paper No. 88 (released January 2001)
by Sharmila Choudhury, Michael V. Leonesio, Kelvin R. Utendorf, Linda Del Bene, and Robert Gesumaria

One aspect of the current debate about changing the Social Security program concerns how new rules might affect elderly women, many of whom have low income. This paper examines three possible changes: (1) a reduction in spousal benefits combined with a change in the computation of the survivor benefit, (2) a redefined minimum benefit, and (3) a 5 percent increase in benefits for persons aged 80 or older. The paper assesses the cost, distributional consequences, and antipoverty impact of each option.

Examining Social Security Benefits as a Retirement Resource for Near-Retirees, by Race and Ethnicity, Nativity, and Disability Status
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 No. 1 (released May 2009)
by Benjamin Bridges and Sharmila Choudhury

This article examines the distribution of Social Security benefits among recent cohorts of near-retirees, by (1) race and ethnicity, (2) nativity, and (3) disability status. Actual earnings history data help produce more accurate measures of benefits. The authors find that substantial differences in earnings levels and/or mortality levels among these subgroups interact with Social Security program provisions to produce sizable differences in values of benefit measures, such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates.

Life-Cycle Aspects of Poverty Among Older Women
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 60 No. 2 (released April 1997)
by Sharmila Choudhury and Michael V. Leonesio

This article focuses on the relationship between women's economic status earlier in their lives and their poverty status in old age. Previous research on the determinants of poverty among aged women has documented the socioeconomic and demographic correlates of the poor, and has examined the financial impact of adverse later-life events such as widowhood, deterioration of health, and loss of employment. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women (NLSMW), we find that most women who experience these types of adverse events in their later years do not become poor and that a large majority of older NLSMW respondents who were poor in 1991-92 were poor earlier in their adult lives. Whether women are impoverished by adverse later-life events depends on their economic resources just prior to the event. But, the financial resources available in old age, in turn, depend very much on their long-term economic status throughout much of their adult lives. This article underscores the fact that for most older women, these adverse events do not appear to precipitate poverty spells—at least not within the first couple of years—and directs attention at longer term circumstances that make some women more vulnerable to poverty.

Life-Cycle Aspects of Poverty Among Older Women
ORES Working Paper No. 71 (released April 1997)
by Sharmila Choudhury and Michael V. Leonesio

In this paper we focus on the relationship between a woman's economic status earlier in life and her poverty status in old age. Previous research on the determinants of poverty among aged women has documented the socioeconomic and demographic correlates of the poor and has examined the financial impact of adverse late-life events such as widowhood, deterioration of health, and loss of employment. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Mature Women, we find that most women who experience these types of adverse events in their later years do not become poor and that a large majority of older NLSMW respondents who were poor in 1991–92 were poor earlier in their adult lives. Whether women are impoverished by adverse late-life events depends on their economic resources just prior to the event. But the financial resources available in old age, in turn, depend very much on their long-term economic status throughout much of their adult lives. This article underscores the fact that for most older women these adverse events do not appear to precipitate poverty spells—at least not within the first couple of years—and directs attention at longer-term circumstances that make some women more vulnerable.

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.

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.

Social Security as a Retirement Resource for Near-Retirees
ORES Working Paper No. 106 (released May 2005)
by Benjamin Bridges and Sharmila Choudhury

This paper analyzes Social Security benefits as a retirement resource for near-retirees. It looks at how the average values of several measures of benefits such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates have changed from earlier cohorts to today's near-retiree cohort, examines differences among demographic and socioeconomic groups within cohorts, and discusses reasons for these changes and differences. The paper uses greatly improved data (actual earnings histories) to produce more accurate measures of benefits; it also uses some new benefit measures. Key findings include the following: (1) average real Social Security wealth increases markedly for successive age cohorts, primarily because of increases in average real earnings; (2) replacement rates fall for recent cohorts, primarily because of the phase-in of increases in the age of eligibility for full benefits; and (3) median Social Security wealth is much higher for women than for men because women live longer.

Social Security as a Retirement Resource for Near-Retirees, by Race and Ethnicity, Nativity, Benefit Type, and Disability Status
ORES Working Paper No. 109 (released October 2007)
by Benjamin Bridges and Sharmila Choudhury

This paper analyzes Social Security benefits as a retirement resource for selected subgroups of current and recent cohorts of near-retirees. The paper examines the distribution of benefits among (1) several race-ethnic subgroups, (2) the native-born and the foreign-born, (3) worker, spouse, and survivor beneficiaries, and (4) the disabled and the nondisabled. We use improved data (actual earnings history data) to produce more accurate measures of benefits. We look at how the average values of several benefit measures such as Social Security wealth and earnings replacement rates differ among the selected subgroups and discuss reasons for these differences. We find that substantial differences in earnings levels and/or mortality levels among these subgroups interact with Social Security program provisions to produce sizable differences in the values of our benefit measures.