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Key Findings Details

The Effects of Changes in Women’s Labor Market Attachment on Redistribution Under the Social Security Benefit Formula
Alan L. Gustman, Thomas L. Steinmeier and Nahid Tabatabai
WP 2011-248

  • Despite the highly progressive Social Security benefit formula and the rapid growth of women's earnings over the preceding decade, as of 2004 there is less redistribution of benefits from high to low earning households than from high to low earning individuals.
  • Among the reasons for this finding:
    • Women in high income households continue to earn less than their husbands, thereby enjoying redistribution from the benefit formula as low earners.
    • Spouse and survivor benefits accrue disproportionately to households with one high earner.
  • With the closing of the gap in earnings between men and women, in 2004 there was greater redistribution of Social Security benefits from high- to low-earning households than there was in 1992.