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Abstract

The Social Security Early Retirement Benefit as Safety Net
John Bound and Timothy A. Waidmann
WP 2010-240

In this paper we used the Health and Retirement Study to examine the health and economic status of those who collect Social Security retirement benefits prior to the full retirement age. We used a propensity score reweighting method to estimate the fraction of early retirees who use early retirement benefits as a safety net against deteriorating health and who might be induced to apply for disability benefits (SSDI) or retire without income replacement if the generosity or availability of early retirement benefits were reduced. We find that while the majority of early retirees would likely not qualify for disability benefits, approximately one in five have health characteristics similar to SSDI beneficiaries, and thus might not be able to replace losses in benefit income with labor income.

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