The financing shortfall currently facing the Social Security program is significant. Without remedial action, program trust funds will be exhausted in 2040. Many recent reform proposals have included modifications of the indexing currently used in the Social Security program. Indexing is a way to link the growth of benefits and/or revenues to changes in an economic or demographic variable. Given the recent attention focused on indexing, this report examines (1) the current use of indexing in the Social Security program and how reform proposals might modify that use, (2) the experiences of other developed nations that have modified indexing, (3) the effects of modifying the indexing on the distribution of benefits, and (4) the key considerations associated with modifying the indexing. To illustrate the effects of different forms of indexing on the distribution of benefits, we calculated benefit levels for a sample of workers born in 1985, using a microsimulation model. We have prepared this report under the Comptroller General's statutory authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative as part of a continued effort to assist Congress in addressing the challenges facing Social Security. We provided a draft of this report to SSA and the Department of the Treasury. SSA provided technical comments, which we have incorporated as appropriate.
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