Corrections to CBO’s Analysis of Replacement Rates for Social Security

Posted by
Keith Hall
February 10, 2016

After questions were raised by outside analysts, we identified some errors in one part of our report, CBO’s 2015 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information, which was released on December 16, 2015.

The errors occurred in CBO’s calculations of replacement rates—the ratio of Social Security recipients’ benefits to their past earnings. The errors affected no other estimates in the report. A new version of the document, with corrections to Exhibits 10 and 12, has been posted on CBO’s website.

In the report, replacement rates were defined to be initial benefits as a percentage of average late-career earnings; for those calculations, earnings consisted of the last five years of earnings that were at least half of a worker’s average indexed earnings, adjusted for growth in prices. The estimates reported in December inadvertently included years with earnings below those intended amounts.

The corrected version shows substantially lower mean initial replacement rates for retired and disabled workers. For example, the corrected rate for retired workers born in the 1940s is 43 percent; the value CBO reported in December was 60 percent.

Keith Hall is CBO’s Director.