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BOOSTER SHOTS: Oddities, musings and news from the
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AARP ready to deal on Social Security benefit cuts -- what does research show?

June 17, 2011|By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog
  • A retired man feeds pigeons at a public park.
A retired man feeds pigeons at a public park. (Enrique Marcarian/Reuters )

After a Wall Street Journal article reported Friday that the AARP, a powerful retirees lobbying group, would no longer be opposing cuts to Social Security benefits, the news reverberated through Washington. Social Security is one of the hottest political buttons among retirees -- but what does research say about its relative value?

One 2004 study from UC Berkeley researchers (published in the journal Population and Development Review in 2010) analyzed the net value of Social Security, Medicare and public education  — minus taxes — for Americans born 1850 through 2090. According to a university news release:

"They found that people ages 38 and younger — including those born 20 years from now — will make net gains in earnings of 4 to 6 percent over their lifetimes. By contrast, those now aged 63 to 80 will have paid out more in taxes than they will have received in Social Security, Medicare and public education benefits, losing 1 to 2 percent in net earnings over their lifetimes."

Perhaps that accounts for the findings of a 2010 study published in the Journal of Human Resources, which found that older men are delaying their retirement because of declining Social Security benefits.

Keep in mind, a study published this year in the Journal of Public Health Policy found that Americans age 65 and over saw significant drops in mortality rates when Social Security was founded and at points at which it was improved.

For those approaching retirement age -- or just curious about the system -- here's a guide with tips on Social Security.

Follow me on Twitter @LAT_aminakhan.

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