Why Are U.S. Households Claiming Social Security Later?
Over the past two decades, the share of individuals claiming Social Security at the Early Eligibility Age has dropped and the average retirement age has increased. At the same time, Social Security rules have changed substantially, employer-sponsored retirement plans have shifted from defined benefit (DB) to defined contribution (DC), health has improved, and mortality has decreased. In theory, all of these changes could lead to a trend towards later claiming. Disentangling the effect of any one change is difficult because they have been occurring simultaneously. This paper uses the Gustman and Steinmeier structural model of retirement timing to investigate which of these changes matter most by simulating their effects on the original cohort (1931-1941 birth years) of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS). The predicted behavior is then compared to the actual retirements of the Early Baby Boomer cohort (1948-1953 birth years) to see how much of the later cohort’s delayed claiming and retirement can be explained by these changes.