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Working Paper

The Impact of Social Security and Other Factors on the Distribution of Wealth

Auerbach et al. (1995), document the dramatic postwar increase in the annuitization of the resources of America’s elderly. Gokhale et al. (1996) suggest that greater annuitization may explain the significant postwar rise in the consumption propensity of the elderly out of remaining lifetime resources. Gokhale et al. (2000) consider the related point that increased annuitization will reduce bequests, especially for lower and middle-income households, whose entire earnings are taxed under Social Security. By differentially disenfranchising the children of the poor from receipt of inheritances, Social Security may materially alter the distribution of wealth. This paper uses data from the PSID to further analyze how Social Security and other factors affect wealth inequality. The Gini coefficient of the simulated equilibrium wealth distribution is 21 percent larger and the share of wealth held by the wealthiest 1 percent of households is 79 percent higher in the presence of Social Security.

Working Papers of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland are preliminary materials circulated to stimulate discussion and critical comment on research in progress. They may not have been subject to the formal editorial review accorded official Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publications. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Federal Reserve System.

Suggested Citation

Gokhale, Jagadeesh, and Laurence Kotlikoff. 1999. “The Impact of Social Security and Other Factors on the Distribution of Wealth.” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Working Paper No. 99-13.