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Introduction to "Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages"

Courtney Coile, Kevin Milligan, David A. Wise

Chapter in NBER book Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages (2017), David A. Wise, editor (p. 1 - 33)
Published in May 2017 by University of Chicago Press
© 2017 by the National Bureau of Economic Research
in NBER Book Series - International Social Security

This is the introduction and summary to the seventh phase of an ongoing project on Social Security Programs and Retirement Around the World. The project compares the experiences of a dozen developed countries and uses differences in their retirement program provisions to explore the effect of SS on retirement and related questions. The first three phases of this project document that: 1) incentives for retirement from SS are strongly correlated with labor force participation rates across countries; 2) within countries, workers with stronger incentives to delay retirement are more likely to do so; and 3) changes to SS could have substantial effects on labor force participation and government finances. The fourth volume explores whether higher employment among older persons might increase youth unemployment and finds no link between the two. The fifth and sixth volumes focus on the disability insurance (DI) program, finding that changes in DI participation are more closely linked to DI reforms than to changes in health and that reducing access to DI would raise labor supply.

This seventh phase of the project explores whether older people are healthy enough to work longer. We use two main methods to estimate the health capacity to work, asking how much older individuals today could work if they worked as much as those with the same mortality rate in the past or as younger individuals in similar health. Both methods suggest there is significant additional health capacity to work at older ages.

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This chapter first appeared as NBER working paper w21939, Social Security and Retirement Programs Around the World: The Capacity to Work at Older Ages – Introduction and Summary, Courtney Coile, Kevin S. Milligan, David A. Wise
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