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Volume 11 Issue 2 - June 2010

2010 MRRC Annual Research Workshop

On April 9-10, 2010, the Michigan Retirement Center (MRRC) held its Sixth Annual Research Workshop. The meeting offered a fast-paced and collegial exchange of papers and ideas. Scholars presented and discussed papers on the impact of the current recession and mortgage crisis on the elderly, Social Security disability insurance, the health and well-being of the elderly, family line transfers of caregiving and wealth, Social Security benefits and labor market participation, correlates of earnings and wealth, financial planning for retirement, international social insurance programs for the elderly, and new data resources.

MRRC director John Laitner opened the workshop with welcoming remarks. Over fifty-three researchers attended the meeting, including seven staff from the Social Security Administration.

Friday’s first session dealt with the current recession and housing market and was chaired by John Laitner. Susann Rohwedder led off with her presentation, The Effect of the Great Recession on American Households, based on data from RAND’s monthly American Life Panel survey. Frank Stafford discussed findings from his paper, Mortgage Contract Decisions and Mortgage Distress: Family and Financial Life-Cycle Factors (see the Q&A article with Stafford in this issue). Elena Gouskova concluded the session with her paper, Mortgage Distress of the Elderly: How Strong Are Family Ties?

John Phillips chaired the next session on the life-cycle model and private wealth accumulation. Robert Clark discussed his paper, Lump Sum Distributions for Terminated Workers Prior to Retirement Eligibility, based on North Carolina state pension data. Angela Lee Duckworth presented data showing a significant correlation between personality traits and earnings and wealth in her talk, Personality, Lifetime Earnings, and Retirement Wealth. Robert Willis reported on early results from the paper Occupational Learning, Financial Knowledge and the Accumulation of Retirement Wealth. Olivia Mitchell concluded the session by discussing Borrowing from Yourself, which dealt with the nature and prevalence of loans taken out on employer 401(k) plans.

John Sabelhaus led a lively lunch discussion round table on Social Security reform. Discussants were Alan Gustman, John Laitner, Olivia Mitchell, John Karl Scholz, and David Weir.

Friday’s first afternoon session, chaired by Alan Gustman, started off with papers on disability insurance. Nicole Maestas delivered her paper, Consistency of the Disability Determination Process. Next, David Stapleton presented his talk, The Dynamics of SSDI Beneficiary Employment and Exit for Work. Jody Schimmel reported on her findings in The Impact of the 1999 SGA Increase on the Earnings of SSDI Beneficiaries. Timothy Waidmann wrapped up the disability talks with Early Retirement as Safety Net.

John Laitner led the fourth session, which dealt with family line transfers. Janice Compton presented findings from Family Proximity and Women’s Labor Force Participation. Kathleen McGarry delivered a talk on her paper, Geographic Dispersion and the Well-Being of the Elderly. Next, Emily Wiemers reported on her work, Health, Caregiving, and Geographic Proximity to Family Long-Run Effects of Health on Wealth. The last talk of the day was given by Jennifer Ward-Batts, who discussed Long-Run Effects of Health on Wealth.

Michael Hurd headed the first session on Saturday, April 10, which dealt with preferences and health status within the life-cycle model. Daniel Benjamin presented his paper, Do People Seek to Maximize Happiness? Evidence from New Surveys. Next, Miles S. Kimball discussed Fatalism, Locus of Control and Retirement Saving. John Karl Scholz talked about Health Investments and Consumption. Lina Walker from the AARP Public Policy Institute discussed Using Housing Equity to Finance LTC.

Dmitriy Stolyarov chaired Saturday’s second morning session, which dealt with labor supply decisions. David Blau presented Framing Social Security Reform: Behavioral Responses to Changes in the Full Retirement Age. Luigi Pistaferri discussed Wage Risk and Employment Over the Life Cycle. Kathleen Mullen talked about her working paper, Pension Benefits and Retirement Decisions: Income vs. Price Elasticities. Shinichi Nishiyama presented The Joint Decision Making of Married Couples and the Social Security Pension System. Lauren Nicholas ended the session with Health Care Treatment Intensity and Paid/Unpaid Work Amongst Older Adults.

Saturday’s lunch panel addressed new data resources and was chaired by Manuel de la Puente. University of Michigan researchers Sheldon Danziger, Helen Levy, and Kristin Seefeldt discussed the Michigan Recession and Recovery Survey. Michael Hurd provided an update on Health and Retirement Study data products, including the Consumption and Mail Activities Survey. And Frank Stafford presented findings from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics based on time diaries on the elderly.

Olivia Mitchell headed the final session of the workshop, which addressed international topics. Estelle James discussed Chile’s New Reform and Arie Kapteyn talked about his work, Anchoring Vignettes and Response Consistency.