Research and Analysis by Karen E. Smith

This Is Not Your Parents' Retirement: Comparing Retirement Income Across Generations
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72 No. 1 (released February 2012)
by Barbara A. Butrica, Karen E. Smith, and Howard M. Iams

This article examines how retirement income at age 67 is likely to change for baby boomers and generation Xers compared with current retirees. The authors use the Modeling Income in the Near Term model to project retirement income, assets, poverty rates, and replacement rates for current and future retirees at age 67. In absolute terms, retirement incomes of future cohorts will increase over time, and poverty rates will fall. However, projected income gains are larger for high than for low socioeconomic groups, leading to increased income inequality among future retirees.

Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Retirement Prospects of Divorced Women
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72 No. 1 (released February 2012)
by Barbara A. Butrica and Karen E. Smith

The authors use the Social Security Administration's Modeling Income in the Near Term (version 6) to describe the likely characteristics, work experience, Social Security benefit status, and economic well-being of future divorced women at age 70, by race and ethnicity. Factors associated with higher retirement incomes include having a college degree; having a strong history of labor force attachment; receiving Social Security benefits; and having pensions, retirement accounts, or assets, regardless of race and ethnicity. However, because divorced black and Hispanic women are less likely than divorced white women to have these attributes, income sources, or assets, their projected average retirement incomes are lower than those of divorced white women.

The Impact of Changes in Couples' Earnings on Married Women's Social Security Benefits
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72 No. 1 (released February 2012)
by Barbara A. Butrica and Karen E. Smith

This article uses the Social Security Administration's Modeling Income in the Near Term (version 6) to examine how changes in married women's labor force participation and earnings will impact the Social Security benefits of current and future beneficiary wives. Over the next 30 years, a larger share of wives will be eligible for Social Security benefits based solely on their own earnings, and wives' average Social Security benefits are expected to increase by 50 percent. Despite rising female lifetime earnings, wives' earnings typically remain below those of their husbands, so many wives who are retired-worker-only beneficiaries while their husbands are alive will receive auxiliary benefits when their husbands die.

The Retirement Prospects of Divorced Women
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 72 No. 1 (released February 2012)
by Barbara A. Butrica and Karen E. Smith

To project the retirement resources and well-being of divorced women, the authors use the Social Security Administration's Modeling Income in the Near Term (version 6). Findings show that Social Security benefits and retirement incomes are projected to increase for divorced women and that their poverty rates are projected to decline, due in large part to women's increasing lifetime earnings. However, not all divorced women will be equally well off; economic well-being in retirement varies by Social Security benefit type.

The Disappearing Defined Benefit Pension and Its Potential Impact on the Retirement Incomes of Baby Boomers
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 69 No. 3 (released October 2009)
by Barbara A. Butrica, Howard M. Iams, Karen E. Smith, and Eric J. Toder

A large share of traditional defined benefit pension plans have frozen within the past decade and evidence suggests that this trend will continue in the future. This article uses the Model of Income in the Near Term (MINT) microsimulation model to project the impact on boomers' retirement incomes of freezing traditional pension plans and replacing them with 401(k)-type plans. The projections suggest that the largest impact will be for the most recent boomers born between 1961 and 1965.

The Changing Impact of Social Security on Retirement Income in the United States
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65 No. 3 (released January 2005)
by Barbara A. Butrica, Howard M. Iams, and Karen E. Smith

This article assesses the role of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in the economic well-being of baby-boomer retirees and their predecessors. The results suggest that, similar to current retirees, Social Security will account for about two-fifths of projected income for baby-boomer retirees. On average, SSI will contribute almost nothing to total income and will be received by fewer baby-boomer retirees than by current retirees. Although baby boomers can expect higher incomes and lower poverty rates at retirement than current retirees have, they can also expect lower replacement rates. The decline in replacement rates is driven, in part, by a decline in Social Security replacement rates.

Lifetime Distributional Effects of Social Security Retirement Benefits
from Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 65 No. 1 (released May 2004)
by Karen E. Smith, Eric J. Toder, and Howard M. Iams

This article presents three measures of the distributional effects of Social Security benefits on actual and projected retirement income of workers born between 1931 and 1960. Microsimulations take into account marital history, the sharing of incomes and tax burdens within couples, and differences in life expectancy among subgroups of the population. More important than changes in tax rates or benefits are changes in the demographics and earnings patterns of the workforce, particularly the higher lifetime covered earnings of women. The growing share of women receiving worker benefits instead of spouse or survivor benefits, plus the increased proportion of retirees who are divorced, make Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) benefits more progressive, even in the face of declining net benefits.