Retirement Pay and Officer Retention

Jeffrey S. Smith, James E. West

NBER Working Paper No. 18502
Issued in November 2012
NBER Program(s):   LS

We use data from a natural experiment in which retirement benefits were reduced by congressional legislation and later restored to estimate the effect of future retirement benefit eligibility upon the decision of whether to remain in the U.S. military. We find that the generosity of retirement benefits is significantly correlated with the decision to remain in service until members qualify for benefits. The estimated effect of a 20 percent reduction in the generosity of retirement benefits upon the probability of remaining on active duty is equivalent to the effect of a 0.27 percentage point reduction in the unemployment rate, or approximately a 2 percent increase in the GDP growth rate.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18502

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