2019 RDRC Meeting: Forecasting Survival by Socioeconomic Status and Implications for Social Security Benefits

Published: 2019


Both wealth and mortality inequality have recently increased, which may lead to greater aggregate Social Security payouts because individuals with greater annual benefits tend to live longer. An important question is whether this trend in mortality inequality will continue. We use a novel method to forecast survival rates of currently middle-aged individuals: We use trends in stated subjective probabilities of survival, which is a forward-looking measure of an individual’s survival chances, as well as their health status, health behavior and other variables measured at about age 57. We find that some mortality risk factors, such as obesity and subjective survival probabilities have significantly worsened recently, while others, such as smoking, improved.  Overall, our mortality forecast models predict an improvement in mortality in the medium term, but we predict further increases in mortality inequality, particularly among women.

Key Findings