Understanding Patterns of Social Security Benefit Receipt, Pensions Incomes, Retirement and Saving by Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Marital Status: A Structural Approach

Published: 2004


In this paper we use data from the Health and Retirement Study to examine differences in retirement behavior, wealth, Social Security and pension benefits by race and gender. The differences observed among groups are sometimes substantial. We then estimate models jointly explaining retirement and wealth by race and gender. We decompose differences in outcomes into those due to differences in parameters of the preference function for leisure and goods, time preference rates, and those due to differences in the circumstances of the members of each group. By circumstances we mean both the opportunity set, and factors that determine the disutility of continued work, such as health status. We find that differences in outcomes among white, black and Hispanic males are not due to differences in preferences for leisure and goods consumption, but are due both to differences in time preference and to differences in circumstances. Differences in outcomes between men and women are primarily due to differences in preferences.

Key Findings