Means Testing Social Security: Modeling and Policy Analysis
20 Pages Posted: 3 Jul 2016 Last revised: 11 Aug 2016
Date Written: November 1, 2015
Means testing can balance the need to provide adequate retirement incomes with the requirement that such provision is fiscally sustainable and economically efficient. Critics of the policy suggest that to reduce benefits as a retiree’s income and/or wealth increase is to discourage work and savings. Yet such distortions are small compared to those resulting from large earnings related pensions that, due to demographic change, require greater levels of financing via payroll taxes. Some form of means testing exists in most countries, usually involving small, safety-net schemes that target the poorest retirees (e.g., the Supplemental Security Income program in the U.S.). But an appropriately designed means-testing instrument can also be used to reduce the liability of large, publicly financed social security promises by excluding the affluent. This paper summarises means-testing design and implementation in a number of OECD countries as well as tackling key criticisms of means testing. In doing so, we discuss a number of recent, cutting-edge modelling approaches and empirical insights that examine economic impacts of means testing in the Australian and U.S. contexts.
Keywords: Australian pension, means testing
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