Social Security and the American Family
Michael J. Boskin, Douglas J. Puffert
NBER Working Paper No. 2117
This paper presents the results of a computer simulation of the expected present value of benefits, taxes, and transfers, rates of return, and marginal linkage of benefits and taxes for persons of different income levels and family status. A number of important issues associated with the "deal" and incentives projected to be offered by the current social security system for different family situations are treated: married versus single persons, number of earners in the family and the division of earnings between them, and the special situation of widows and divorcees. The results show tremendous variation for different family situations and often dwarf amounts at stake for most families in the recent debates over income tax reform. We pay particular attention to items such as marriage penalties and subsidies, incentives to postpone divorce and low marginal linkage of expected benefits to incremental taxes paid by women, whether as second earners in a family, divorcees or widows.
Published: Boskin and Puffert, "Social Security and the American Family," in Economics of Tax Policy, Lawrence Summers, ed., Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.