Increases in longevity have gone largely to high earners
July 01, 2011
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SOURCES: Data from a Social Security Administration Report, "Trends in Mortality Differentials and Life Expectancy for Male Social Security-Covered Workers, by Socioeconomic Status" by Hilary Waldron (2007). Compiled by PGPF.
NOTE: Data covers male Social Security-covered workers, and earnings distribution is determined by relative average positive earnings during peak earning years (ages 45-55). The vertical axis measures the expected age of death of a 65-year-old in the given year.

Americans are living longer than they used to — which means that the average Social Security beneficiary receives a much more generous lifetime benefit than did previous generations of retirees. Many Social Security reform proposals call for increasing the eligibility age. But research from the Social Security administration shows that increases in life expectancy have not been shared across income groups. In 1977, life expectancy at age 65 for a man who was in the bottom half of earners during his peak earning years was 79.8 years; for a 65-year-old male who was in the top half of earners during his peak earning years, it was 80.5. Over the next 30 years, life expectancies grew dramatically for the top half of earners, while remaining nearly flat for the bottom half of earners. By 2006, life expectancy at 65 for a male who was in the bottom half of earners during his peak earning years was 81.1; for a male who was in the top half of earners during his peak earning years, it was 86.5.

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Worker-to-Beneficiary Ratio in the Social Security Program
The Aging of the U.S. Population
Household Debt, 1955-2011
Trends in the Composition of the Elderly Population
Low-Income Seniors Rely on Social Security

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