Regular readers know that a lot of this blog’s time is spent on intellectual zombies — beliefs and concepts that have been killed by evidence but that keep shambling forward nonetheless, trying to eat our brains. And now that talk has turned once again to Grand Bargains and all that, I see that we’re once again seeing the Social Security/life expectancy zombie: we live longer, so shouldn’t retirement wait?
1. The relevant life expectancy is life expectancy at or near retirement age. Falling infant mortality doesn’t make a case for delaying Social Security — and that’s important, because gains have been much less striking at age 65 than at birth.
2. Gains in life expectancy have been very strongly correlated with income and class; those with lower incomes and lower status — the very people who depend most on Social Security — have seen very small gains in life expectancy:
3. The retirement age has already been increased: the Greenspan Commission of the early 80s set it in motion, so that it’s now 66 and scheduled to rise to 67, essentially consuming all of the life expectancy gains of the bottom 50 percent.