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Removing the Disincentives for Long Careers in the Social Security and Medicare Benefit Structure

Jan 2008
Working Paper
08-058
By  Gopi Shah Goda, John Shoven, Sita Slavov
When Social Security was instituted in 1935, the period life expectancy at age 20 for males was 66 and for females 69. Today, 20-year-old males have a period life expectancy of 76 and females, 80. This increase in life expectancy has been accompanied by a corresponding improvement in health at all ages. Cutler, Liebman, and Smyth (2005) find that, in terms of mortality, men at age 68 in 2000 have roughly the same mortality risk as men at age 62 in 1960. Thus, at a same age, men in the year 2000 are roughly six years younger. In terms of self assessed health status, they find that the difference is even larger, approximately ten years. Their bottom line is, “Our best guess is that people aged 62 in the 1960s are in equivalent health to people aged 70 or more today.” In related work, Shoven (2004) suggested that the age of elderly people is more appropriately measured by remaining life expectancy than by years since birth. In his most recent work, Shoven (2007) introduces the concept of “real ages” in contrast to “nominal ages” with real ages depending on mortality risk rather than years since birth.