Raising the Social Security normal retirement age may not be the easy answer. Life Expectancy Study: It’s Not Just What You Make, It’s Where You Live

Applying averages and actuarial data to the human beings who use Social Security may not be as easy at it appears. Simply raising the retirement age to help with Social Security solvency may seem like a simple idea, but it may not be all that fair. Take a look at this analysis. 

The study, published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, bolsters what was already well known — the poor tend to have shorter lifespans than those with more money. 

“There are vast gaps in life expectancy between the richest and poorest Americans,” Chetty said. “Men in the top 1 percent distribution level live about 15 years longer than men in the bottom 1 percent on the income distribution in the United States. 

Since 2001, life expectancy has increased by 2.3 years for the wealthiest 5 percent of American men and by nearly 3 years for similarly situated women. Meanwhile, life expectancy has increased barely at all for the poorest 5 percent. 

Among the study’s findings was that poor people in affluent cities such as San Francisco and New York tend to live longer than people of similar income levels in rust belt cities such as Detroit, he said. What accounts for the disparity isn’t clear, Chetty says. It may be that some cities such as San Francisco may be better at promoting healthier lifestyles, with smoking bans, for example, or perhaps people tend to adopt healthier habits if they live in a place where everyone else is doing it, he says. 

The study suggests that the relationship between life expectancy and income is not ironclad, and changes at the local level can make a big difference. “What our study shows is that thinking about these issues of inequality and health and life expectancy at a local level is very fruitful, and thinking about policies that change health behaviors at a local level is likely to be important,” he says. 

Chetty notes that the study has clear implications for Social Security and Medicare. The fact that poor people don’t live as long means they are paying into the system without getting the same benefits, [😒] a fact that needs to be considered in any discussion about raising the retirement age, he says. The study was co-authored by Michael Stepner and Sarah Abraham of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Benjamin Scuderi, David Cutler and Augustin Bergeron of Harvard University; Shelby Lin of McKinsey and Co.; and Nicholas Turner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis.

Source: Life Expectancy Study: It’s Not Just What You Make, It’s Where You Live : The Two-Way : NPR

[😟] This is a questionable conclusion given that lower income people receive a higher Social Security benefit relative to their earnings and thus do not have to live as long to collect equal returns. 

One comment

  1. I have two thoughts on this. First Social Security was never a retirement plan but to keep old people from dying in the streets when they could no longer work. The idea deal was you would only live a few years not decades. To me it is not about how much money you get back but how you live your final years not eating dog food living in a cardboard box. Second there are a lot of people who will never live to get social security if they raise the age limit. I might be one of them through no fault of mine but I have already lived a good life.

    My personal goal is to live long enough to collect at least one check and has been that way since I was 18. Age 67 is still a long ways away. Right now I do not need the money but talk to me at 62 if I go through some expensive medical procedures. I might feel different.


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