Retirement and Economic Behavior

By Henry J. Aaron; Gary Burtless | Go to book overview

Henry J. Aaron and Gary Burtless


Introduction and Summary

Retirement is a phenomenon of growing importance in economic life. With the establishment of social security in 1935, the rise of private pensions after World War II, and the general increase in living standards since the Depression, an extended period of retirement has come to be viewed as normal. Longevity has been increasing, and retirement ages have been declining. As a result, retired people represent a growing proportion of the population. When the baby boom generation retires, starting around 2005, this proportion will rise sharply. Trends in retirement have raised important questions about the financial soundness of some of the main institutions that provide income to retirees and their families: social security, other public and private pension plans, and medicare.

Public concern about the future of social security and public and private pensions has stimulated a growing body of research on retirement, aging, and the problems of the elderly. This research covers many topics: lifetime savings and employment patterns, illness and disability and their economic consequences, the income status and living arrangements of the elderly, and the macroeconomic effects of pensions, social security, and demographic change. Many of these issues are treated in one or more of the papers in this volume.

It was not our intention when commissioning research studies to provide an encyclopedic treatment of all important issues. Because research on many of the subjects examined in this book began only in the 1970s, such a systematic survey of the issues is not yet warranted. We asked authors to try to contribute to knowledge, not to summarize the existing literature within their areas of expertise. The result is a diverse set of original research papers that touch on a variety of related subjects of interest to both policymakers and social scientists. Each of these papers should be regarded as a progress report, not as the definitive

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