Social Security Bulletin, Vol. 75 No. 3

(released August 2015)
by Kathleen Romig and Dave Shoffner

Social Security's family maximum rules limit the total benefits payable to a beneficiary's family. Different family maximum rules apply to retirement and survivor benefits than to disability benefits. The rules for calculating family maximum benefits are complicated. In some particularly complex cases, it is difficult to properly implement the family maximum, which can result in over- or underpayments. This article explains how the family maximum rules work and describes their evolution. The authors use Modeling Income in the Near Term, Version 6 data to analyze who is affected by the family maximum and to what extent their benefits are changed.

by Patrick J. Purcell, Howard M. Iams, and Dave Shoffner

This article explores how faster rates of wage growth for college graduates than for nongraduates could affect the Social Security benefits of future retirees. Using a Social Security Administration microsimulation model called Modeling Income in the Near Term, the authors estimate the effect of different rates of wage growth by educational attainment on the future earnings and Social Security benefits of individuals born between 1965 and 1979, sometimes referred to as “Generation X.” They find that for members of the 1965–1979 birth cohorts, different rates of wage growth by education would substantially increase the gap in annual earnings between college graduates and nongraduates, but that differences in Social Security benefits would increase by a smaller proportion, primarily because of Social Security's progressive benefit formula.

by Jeffrey Hemmeter

In determining Supplemental Security Income (SSI) eligibility and payment levels for child applicants and recipients, the Social Security Administration attributes part of parental income to the child using a process called deeming. Parental-income deeming ends at age 18, relaxing a key SSI eligibility criterion for youths at that point. Using Social Security administrative records, this article presents data on the number and characteristics of youths who apply for SSI shortly before and after they turn 18. The author finds that the number of applications spikes at age 18 and that 18-year-old applicants are more likely than 17-year-olds to be allowed into the program. The author also compares the relative likelihood of subsequent employment for allowed and denied youth applicants.

by Benjamin Bridges and Robert V. Gesumaria

In 2011, the Census Bureau released its first report on the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM addresses many criticisms of the official poverty measure, and its intent is to provide an improved statistical picture of poverty. This article examines the extent of poverty identified by the two measures. The authors present a detailed examination of poverty among children (aged 0–17). For a more comprehensive view of poverty and comparison purposes, some findings are presented for two older segments of the U.S. population.

by Yonatan Ben-Shalom and David C. Stapleton

A significant share of individuals who are first awarded Social Security benefits because of a disability is aged younger than 40. Using administrative data on young adults aged 18–39 who were first awarded benefits from 1996 through 2007, the authors produce descriptive statistics on beneficiary characteristics at award, prior Supplemental Security Income program participation status, and 5-year employment outcomes. The authors track cross-cohort changes over the study period and examine potential contributing factors.