NBER Reports Strong Positive Correlation Between Wealth and Life Expectancy

Apr 21, 2017 / by Michael Natalie, Horsesmouth Associate Editor

Though older Americans are generally living longer than they have in prior decades, an emerging body of literature suggests that these gains are mostly reserved for the wealthy.

For Social Security and Medicare, the policy implications of this trend are highly significant. According to the NBER, the life expectancy gulf between the wealthiest and the poorest will rise about 8 years between the 1930 and 1960 birth cohorts. Because Social Security is a lifetime annuity, the gap in average lifetime program benefits received by men in the highest and lowest quintiles to widen by $130,000 over this same period.

These findings also imply that raising the full retirement age—an indirect benefit cut and one of the most commonly discussed proposals to restore solvency to the Social Security system—would have disproportionate consequences for the nation’s poor.


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