Social Security News
Raising Social Security retirement
to 70 makes sense but penalizes the disadvantaged
Survival to age 65 rose to 84.8% and
years lived past age 65 increased to 18.9 between 1983 and 2009.
5, 2015 - Adjustments to the retirement age have not kept up with
increases in life expectancy or healthy lifespan. The age to receive
full Social Security benefits should be closer to 70, according to a
report published in the journal Daedalus. But, that change would
not be good for those with lower life expectancy.
"We're living longer and healthier
than ever before, but the statutory age of retirement for receiving
Social Security benefits doesn't reflect that," says lead author S. Jay
Olshansky, professor of epidemiology in the University of Illinois at
Chicago School of Public Health.
When Social Security was enacted in
1935, the age of full retirement was set at 65. Back then, a 25-year-old
had a 62.4 percent chance of living to retirement age, and a 65-year-old
retiree lived, on average, for another 12.6 years.
"If we calculated retirement age
using the same ratio of retired to working years present in 1935, the
age of eligibility for full benefits today would be close to 70 years
old, and the age for early retirement would be 66.5 years old,"
"But raising the age of retirement
would further exacerbate disparities in Social Security entitlements and
place increased financial burdens on populations with lower life
In other words, people in
population groups with lower life expectancies would continue to pay
into Social Security the same as anyone else, while becoming even less
likely than they already are to live to see retirement -- and those who
do reach retirement would draw benefits for even fewer years, as
compared to other groups.
From the beginning of Social
Security, the age of retirement was intended to be adjusted periodically
as life expectancy increased. But, Olshansky said, the few adjustments
that have been made have been "too little, too late."
The first significant adjustment to
the full retirement age came in 1983, when it was raised from 65 to 67.
But the change didn't go into effect until 2006 and won't be fully
realized until 2027.
"The adjustment in 1983 not only
wasn't enough to keep up with increases in life expectancy, but gains in
life expectancy after age 65 actually accelerated after 1983," Olshansky
By 1983, survival to age 65 among
those who were already age 25 had reached 79.4 percent, and the average
expected remaining years of life past 65 was 16.6 years. Between 1983
and 2009, survival to age 65 rose to 84.8 percent and years lived past
age 65 increased to 18.9.
Previous research has shown that
level of education and longevity are linked. In 2008, only 74.4 percent
of 25 year olds who had less than a high school education survived to
age 65, while 92.1 percent of their peers with a college degree or its
equivalent years of education would do so. Higher levels of education
are associated with higher income, access to better health care and
nutrition, better odds of survival to age 65, and longer post-retirement
life expectancies. However, the retirement age for Social Security is
the same for everyone.
While adjustments to the retirement
age have not kept up with increases in life expectancy or healthy
lifespan, Olshansky says he and his co-authors do not recommend an
adjustment based solely on recent changes in longevity, which would push
both the early and full retirement ages back significantly.
"Additional reforms would be needed
to minimize disparities that would be worsened if the age of retirement
were increased," he said.
Co-authors on the study are Dana P.
Goldman, director of the Schaeffer Center for Health Policy and
Economics at the University of Southern California; and John W. Rowe,
professor at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and
chair of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on an Aging Society,
which funded the research.
The Network brings together
scholars who are conducting a broad-based analysis of how to help the
nation prepare for the challenges and opportunities posed by an aging
society. Daedalus is the journal of the American Academy of Arts