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Introduction to "Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: Reforms and Retirement Incentives"

Axel Börsch-Supan, Courtney Coile


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World: Reforms and Retirement Incentives, Axel Börsch-Supan and Courtney Coile, editors
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series - International Social Security

This is the introduction and summary to the ninth phase of an ongoing project on Social Security Programs and Retirement around the World. This project, which compares the experiences of a dozen developed countries, was launched in the mid-1990s, following decades of decline in the labor force participation rate of older men. The first several phases of the project document that social security program provisions can create powerful incentives for retirement that are strongly correlated with the labor force behavior of older workers. Subsequent phases of the project have explored how disability program provisions affect retirement, whether there is a link between older employment and youth unemployment, and whether older individuals are healthy enough to work longer.

In the two decades since the project began, the dramatic decline in men’s labor force participation has been replaced by sharply rising participation rates. Older women’s participation has increased dramatically as well. In our last study, we investigated some potential causes of rising participation, including changes in health and education. As we noted then, countries have undertaken numerous reforms of their social security programs, disability programs, and other public benefit programs available to older workers over the same period during which participation has increased. In this ninth phase of the project, we explore how the financial incentive to work at older ages has evolved from 1980 to the present. We highlight the important role of reforms in these changing incentives and examine how changing incentives may have affected retirement behavior.

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