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Social Security: Reform Proposals Could Have a Variety of Effects on Distribution of Benefits and Payroll Taxes

GAO-04-872T Published: Jun 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 15, 2004.
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Under the current Social Security benefit formula, retired workers can receive benefits at age 65 that equal about 50 percent of preretirement earnings for an illustrative low-wage worker but only about 30 percent for an illustrative high-wage worker. Factors other than earnings also influence the distribution of benefits, including the program's provisions for disabled workers, spouses, children, and survivors. Changes in the program over time also affect the distribution of benefits across generations. Social Security faces a long-term structural financing shortfall. Program changes to address that shortfall could alter the way Social Security's benefits and revenues are distributed across the population and affect the income security of millions of Americans. The Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging asked us to discuss how selected Social Security reform proposals might affect the distribution of benefits and taxes.

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Comparative analysisDisability benefitsEconomic analysisFederal social security programsFinancial analysisFuture budget projectionsIncome maintenance programsInvestmentsSocial security benefitsSocial security taxesBenefits formulae