Health and Work Capacity of Older Adults: Estimates and Implications for Social Security Policy

38 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2015

See all articles by David M. Cutler

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Ellen Meara

Harvard Medical School; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Seth Richards-Shubik

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2013

Abstract

The simultaneous growth in longevity and mounting budget deficits in the U.S. have increased interest in raising the age of eligibility for public health and retirement benefits. The consequences of this policy depend on the health of the near elderly, and on the distribution of health by demographic group. We simulate the work capacity and likely disability experience of near elderly individuals (62-64 year-olds) based on the work, disability, and retirement status of slightly younger people. Our estimates, from two distinct data sets, indicate that work capacity is substantial at this age. Because health deteriorates very slowly from ages 60-65, labor force participation could rise by 15-20 percent for all demographic groups, while overall disability rates would change very little. However, less advantaged groups would face challenges in the labor market. The expected earnings of current non-workers without any college education are lower than similar workers, by 15 to 25 percent, indicating the uneven burden of changes in the age of eligibility.

Suggested Citation

Cutler, David M. and Meara, Ellen and Richards-Shubik, Seth, Health and Work Capacity of Older Adults: Estimates and Implications for Social Security Policy (August 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2577858 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2577858

David M. Cutler

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center, Room 315A
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

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Ellen Meara

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Department of Health Care Policy
Boston, MA 02115
United States
617-432-3537 (Phone)
617-432-0173 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Seth Richards-Shubik (Contact Author)

Carnegie Mellon University - H. John Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management ( email )

Pittsburgh, PA 15213-3890
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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