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Retirement Research Consortium

The Retirement Research Consortium (RRC) consists of three multidisciplinary centers housed in three separate institutions (Boston College, the University of Michigan, and the National Bureau of Economic Research) and is funded through cooperative agreements with the Social Security Administration. The current five-year cooperative agreements run from FY2014 through FY2018.

The RRC has three main goals:

  • Research and evaluate a wide array of topics related to Social Security and retirement policy,
  • Disseminate information on Social Security and retirement issues relevant to policymakers, researchers, and the general public, and
  • Train scholars and practitioners in research areas relevant to
    Social Security and retirement issues.

Read More About…
the RRC's evolution and research contributions in a series of articles in the Social Security Bulletin.

To meet these goals, the centers perform many activities. They conduct research, prepare policy briefs and working papers, hold an annual meeting, and provide research and training support for young scholars. Links to recent RRC research are provided below. For further information about RRC activities, affiliated institutions, or individual researchers, please visit the websites of the respective institutions:

Recent RRC Research

View RRC Research by Priority Research Area | View Archived Research

Abstracts:show all / hide all
November 2014

Are Retirees Falling Short? Reconciling the Conflicting Evidence

by Alicia H. Munnell,Matthew S. Rutledge, and Anthony Webb
SSA Project # BC14-07 • Wealth and Retirement Income
Center for Retirement Research at Boston College Working Paper 2014-16

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This paper examines conflicting assessments of whether people will have adequate retirement income to maintain their pre-retirement standard of living. The studies that it examines use data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), and the HRS supplement Consumption and Activities Mail Survey (CAMS). Critical components of the analysis are behavioral assumptions about household consumption patterns when children leave home and when households retire. A key limitation is that the behavioral assumptions in the different studies are based on incomplete knowledge of actual household behavior.
September 2014

Distributional Effects of Means Testing Social Security: An Exploratory Analysis

by Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier, and Nahid Tabatabai
SSA Project # UM14-01
Michigan Retirement Research Center Working Paper 2014-306

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This paper examines the distributional implications of introducing additional means testing of Social Security benefits where proceeds are used to help balance Social Security's finances. Benefits of the top quarter of households ranked according to the relevant measure of means are reduced using a modified version of the Social Security Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The replacement rate in the first bracket of the benefit formula, determining the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), would be reduced from 90 percent to 40 percent of Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME). Four measures of means are considered: total wealth; an annualized measure of AIME; the wealth value of pensions; and a measure of average indexed W2 earnings. The empirical analysis, based on data from the Health and Retirement Study, starts with a baseline benefit for each household, calculated as the product of the average benefit-tax ratio under the current system, multiplied by the taxes paid by the household. These means tests would reduce total household benefits by 7 to 9 percentage points, amounting to 15.4 to 16.4 percent of the benefits of affected workers at baseline. We find that the basis for means testing Social Security makes a substantial difference as to which households have their benefits reduced, and that different means tests may have different effects on the benefits of families in similar circumstance. We also find that the measure of means used to evaluate the effects of a means test makes a considerable difference as to how one would view the effects of the means test on the distribution of benefits.