For now, cutting Social Security and doing serious mischief to Medicare seem to have lost their luster for policymakers. But as long as the likes of Alan Simpson are still kicking, schemes to "save" these programs won't end. The perennial favorite is always raising the eligibility age because as "everyone knows" people in the U.S. are living longer. People who pay attention to such things know that not to be true across the board. Rich men are living quite a bit longer, poor men less so, and poor women are actually losing ground. Here's another study to prove it.
You can look at a man born in 1940 and see that during the 1980s, the mid-point of his career, his income was in the top 10% for his age group. If that man lives to age 55 he can expect to live an additional 34.9 years, or to the age of 89.9. That’s six years longer than a man whose career followed the same arc, but who was born in 1920.This is what that looks like:
For men who were in the poorest 10%, they can expect to live another 24 years, only a year and a half longer than his 1920s counterpart.
The story is rather different for women. At every income level, for both those born in 1920 and 1940, women live longer than men. But for women, the longevity and income trends are even more striking. While the wealthiest women from the 1940s are living longer, the poorest 40% are seeing life expectancy decline from the previous generation.
That means, according to the study's author, "'If it turns out people at the bottom are not having an increase in life expectancy. They are getting a real reduction' in Social Security benefits as a result, said Mr. Bosworth. 'They’re going to get it for less years.'" The good news is that Bosworth was delving into this data, from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, along with Kathleen Burke at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They are working on determining whether raising the retirement age would be a smart policy solution. So far, the answer is no. "'It's really hard to come up with some effective means of trying to equalize this,' said Mr. Bosworth, 'and that's a serious concern.'" Indeed.