Changes in the Age Distribution of Income in the United States, 1968-1984
NBER Working Paper No. 1766
Among the interesting changes in the U.S. economy in recent years have been the substantial changes in the age distribution of income and its components. These changes are interesting in and of themselves, but also are an important background against which to interpret aggregate economic statistics. In this paper we present detailed data on both the shares of income, and the relative income per household, of households headed by persons of different ages. These data are supplemented by analogous data for the various components of income: earnings, property income, Social Security, unemployment insurance, welfare, and pensions. These data are tabulated from 17 years of the annual Current Population Surveys (CPS). Among the most interesting trends are the dramatic increase in the share of income received by households over the age of 65 and also in their relative incomes; the enormous growth in the absolute and relative contribution of Social Security income to the incomes of households 55-64, and 65 and over; the sharp decrease in the share of total earnings and of the relative earnings of these two most elderly cohorts; and swings in the shares of total income of the other age cohorts which reflect in part changes in the numbers of persons in households of different ages, e.g., due to the aging of the baby-boom generation.