Current Awareness in Aging Research (CAAR) Report #54--October 12, 2000

CAAR (Current Awareness in Aging Research) is a weekly email report produced by the Center for Demography of Health and Aging at the University of Wisconsin-Madison that helps researchers keep up to date with the latest developments in the field. For more information, including an archive of back issues and subscription information see:


I. Reports and articles:


A. "Social Security Reform: Implications for Private Pensions" (US General Accounting Office Report GAO/HEHS-00-187, September 2000, .pdf format, 46p.).

B. "Private Pensions: 'Top-Heavy' Rules for Owner-Dominated Plans" (US General Accounting Office Report GAO/HEHS-00-141, August 2000, .pdf format, 52p.).

C. "Cash Balance Plans: Implications for Retirement Income" (US General Accounting Office Report GAO/HEHS-00-207, September 2000, .pdf format, 50p.).

D. "Private Pensions: Implications of Conversions to Cash Balance Plans" (US General Accounting Office Report GAO/HEHS-00-185, September 2000, .pdf format, 70p.).

Note: GAO Internet addresses are valid for only a limited period of time. After that time, documents can be found by searching the Government Printing Office:

Search on report number or title.

2. SSA CFR UPDATE: The Social Security Administration has updated its online version of its volume of the _Code of Federal Regulations_ "to reflect regulations published through April 1, 2000."

3. _HEALTH AFFAIRS_ (VIA MEDSCAPE) ARTICLE: Note: Medscape requires free registration before providing articles. "Medicare Governance and Structure: A Proposal," by Lynn Etheredge (_Health Affairs_, Vol. 19, No. 5, September/October 2000, HTML format).


4. BLS PERIODICAL ARTICLES: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has released _Compensation and Working Conditions_ (Vol. 5, No. 2, Summer 2000). Articles in the issue that may be of interest to researchers in aging include:

A. "Cash Balance Pension Plans: The New Wave," by Kenneth R. Elliott and James H. Moore, Jr. (.pdf format, p. 3-11).

A number of larger employers have recently restructured their defined benefit pension plan offerings by switching from a typical pension plan based on terminal earnings formulas to a cash balance plan based on average career earnings. Many questions as to who benefits from such transitions, as well as to how such transitions should be governed, remain unanswered.

B. "Employee Costs and Risks in 401(k) Plans," by Marc Kronson (.pdf format, p. 12-16).

The rapid growth of employer-sponsored 401(k) plans has been facilitated, in part, by the many advantages offered to participants. However, employees also may encounter many costs and risks in attempting to maximize their account balances over the course of participating in a plan.

C. "Social Security Earnings Limit Removed," by Thomas P. Burke (HTML and .pdf format, p. 44-46).

_Compensation and Working Conditions_

5. BOSTON COLLEGE CENTER FOR RETIREMENT RESEARCH ARTICLE: "Social Security and the Federal Budget," by Andrew D. Eschtruth (Boston College Center for Retirement Research "Just the Facts," JTF No. 2, October 2000, .pdf format, 4p.).


Understanding the relationship between Social Security and the rest of the budget can help to clarify the program's current and future financial situation. The trust fund's Treasury bonds are tangible assets for the program, but their redemption will require other budgetary tradeoffs. Lockbox proposals such as the ones proposed in Congress could help promote overall fiscal discipline, but would have no direct effect on Social Security. As the debate over Social Security reform continues, it is important to consider the effects of various proposals on both the program itself and the rest of the federal budget.

Click on "click here" for full text.

6. _SCIENCE_ ARTICLE ABSTRACT: "Regulation of C. elegans Life-Span by Insulinlike Signaling in the Nervous System," by Catherine A. Wolkow, Koutarou D. Kimura, Ming-Sum Lee, and Gary Ruvkun (_Science_, Vol. 290, No. 5489, Oct. 6, 2000, p. 147-150). Note: Full electronic text (HTML and .pdf format) may be available to your organization. Check your organization's library.

7. _PNAS_ ARTICLE ABSTRACT: "Immunization against Alzheimer's Beta-amyloid plaques via EFRH phage administration," by Dan Frenkel, Odelia Katz, and Beka Solomon (_Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences_, Vol. 97, No. 21, Oct. 10, 2000, p. 11455-11459). Note: Full electronic text (HTML and .pdf format) may be available to your organization. Check your organization's library.


A. "Community water fluoridation, bone mineral density, and fractures: prospective study of effects in older women," by Kathy R. Phipps, Eric S. Orwoll, Jill D. Mason, and Jane A. Cauley (_British Medical Journal_, Vol. 321, No. 7265, Oct. 7, 2000, p. 860-864, HTML and .pdf format).

B. "Fluoridation, fractures, and teeth," by Hannu W. Hausen (_British Medical Journal_, Vol. 321, No. 7265, Oct. 7, 2000, p. 844-845, HTML and .pdf format). Note: This is a _BMJ_ editorial.

C. "Refused and granted requests for euthanasia and assisted suicide in the Netherlands: interview study with structured questionnaire," by Ilinka Haverkate, Bregje D. Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Agnes van der Heide, Piet J. Kostense, Gerrit van der Wal, and Paul J. van der Maas (_British Medical Journal_, Vol. 321, No. 7265, Oct. 7, 2000, p. 865-866, HTML and .pdf format).


A. Medical News and Perspectives: "Panel Predicts Shortfall in Care for the Aged," by Mike Mitka (_Journal of the American Medical Association_ Vol. 284, No. 14, Oct. 11, 2000, p. 1775-1776, HTML and .pdf format).

B. The World in Medicine: "Recessive Alzheimer Gene?" by Rebecca Voelker (_Journal of the American Medical Association_ Vol. 284, No. 14, Oct. 11, 2000, p. 1777, HTML and .pdf format).

10. _THE LANCET_ ARTICLE: "Nursing-home beds in the Netherlands pose risks to patients," by Wim Weber (_The Lancet_, Vol. 356, No. 9237, Oct. 7, 2000, p. 1252, HTML and .pdf format). Note: This article is available free of charge.




II. Working Papers:

11. SSA: "Early Retirees Under Social Security: Health Status and Economic Resources," by Michael V. Leonesio, Denton R. Vaughan, and Bernard Wixon (Division of Economic Research, Social Security Administration ORES Working Paper Number 86, August 2000, .pdf format, 44p.).


Some proposals to change the Social Security program to ensure long-run solvency would reduce or eliminate benefits to some early retirees. To what extent might those benefit reductions cause hardship for individuals with precarious financial circumstances and whose health appears to limit their ability to offset reductions in Social Security income through increased earnings? Our research is intended to identify the size and characteristics of the population that might be at risk as a consequence of such changes. We examine the health and financial status of Social Security beneficiaries aged 62-64. The study employs two methods for assessing overall health status. The first is a modified application of Census Bureau health measures based on self-reports of health limitations by respondents in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). We characterize these impaired individuals as severely disabled or not severely disabled. The second method uses a multivariate statistical model to predict the probability that an individual would be medically eligible for Social Security disability benefits. The data source for the study is the 1990 SIPP. To those data we have exact-matched Social Security Administration (SSA) record data on benefits, earnings, and disability program evaluations. The resulting database permits an accurate description of the Social Security beneficiary status, health, income, and assets of the civilian noninstitutionalized population in 1991-92. The central finding is that over 20% of early Social Security retirees have health problems that substantially impair their ability to work. In fact, among those aged 62-64 who are severely impaired, there are as many Old-Age and Survivors beneficiaries as there are beneficiaries under SSA's two disability programs. The retirement program functions as a substantial, albeit unofficial, disability program for this age group. Moreover, the majority of the most severely impaired early retirees would not qualify for DI benefits.

12. DUKE UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF ECONOMICS: "Longevity Expectations and Death: Can People Predict Their Own Demise?" by V. Kerry Smith, Donald H. Taylor, Jr., and Frank A. Sloan (Duke Economics Working Paper #00-15, June 2000, .pdf format, 22p.).


Using four waves of the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS), this paper tests whether longevity expectations predict actual mortality at the individual level. The results suggest longevity expectations do predict mortality reasonably well. Serious health shocks and new activity limitations do reduce longevity expectations. Given one is prepared to accept that other unobserved causal factors have the same means for those who die and those who survive in each wave it is possible to test whether longevity expectations can serve as a sufficient statistic. The test findings imply that they do not appear to reflect all that individuals know about their personal odds of living to seventy-five.

Click on "Acrobat" at the bottom of the abstract for full text.

13. NBER PAPERS IN AGING: "Retirement Responses to Early Social Security Benefit Reductions," by Olivia S. Mitchell and John W.R. Phillips (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 7963, October 2000, .pdf format, 35p.).


This paper evaluates potential responses to reductions in early Social Security retirement benefits. Using the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) linked to administrative records, we find that Social Security coverage is quite uneven in the older population: one-quarter of respondents in their late 50's lacks coverage under the Disability Insurance program, and one-fifth lacks coverage for old-age benefits. Among those eligible for benefits, respondents who subsequently retired early appear quite similar initially to those who later filed for normal retirement benefits, but both groups were healthier and better educated than those who later filed for disability benefits. Next we investigate the potential impact of curtailing, and then eliminating, early Social Security benefits. A life-cycle model of retirement behavior provides estimated parameters used to simulate the effects of cutting early Social Security benefits on retirement pathways. We find that cutting early Social Security benefits would boost the probability of normal retirement by twice as much as it would the probability of disability retirement.

Click on "PDF" at the bottom of the abstract for full text.

14. NBER: "The Impact of the Estate Tax on the Wealth Accumulation and Avoidance Behavior of Donors," by Joel Slemrod and Wojciech Kopczuk (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 7960, October 2000, .pdf format, 52p.).


Using estate tax return data from 1916 to 1996, we investigate the impact of the estate tax on reported estates, which reflects the impact of the tax on both wealth accumulation and avoidance. An aggregate measure of reported estates is generally negatively correlated with summary measures of the level of estate taxation, holding constant other influences. In pooled cross-sectional analysis that makes use of individual decedent information, the relationship between the concurrent tax rate and the reported estate is fragile and sensitive to the set of instruments that are used to capture exogenous tax rate variation. However, the negative effect of taxes appears to be stronger for those who die at a more advanced age and with a will, both of which are consistent with the theory of how estate taxes affect altruistic individuals. Finally, we find that the tax rate that prevailed at age 45 or ten years before death is more clearly (negatively) associated with reported estates than the tax rate prevailing at death. Future research should concentrate on developing lifetime measures of the effective tax rates and on better measurements of the effective tax rate for married couples.

Click on "PDF" at the bottom of the abstract for full text.

15. IMF: "Reforming Pensions - Myths, Truths, and Policy Choices," by Nicholas Barr (International Monetary Fund Working Paper WP/00/139, August 2000, .pdf format, 57p.).


This paper discusses the strategic building blocks of pension reform. The early sections set out the simple economics of pensions and discuss a series of myths which have proved remarkably persistent. Subsequent sections draw together the conclusions for policy design from earlier theoretical discussion, set out the prerequisites which any pension reform must respect, and discuss the range of choices facing policymakers. The main conclusions are threefold: the key variable is effective government; from an economic perspective the difference between PAYG and funding is second order; and the range of potential choice over pension design is wide.

Click on "Full Text in PDF format" for full text.


III. Journal Tables of Contents (check your library for availability):

16. CARL Uncover Journal Tables of Contents. Follow the instructions below to access tables of contents. CARL Uncover provides fee based document delivery services for selected journals.

A. Point your browser to:

B. click on "Search Uncover"
C. click on "Search Uncover Now"
D. Type the Journal Name in the search box and click the radio button "Journal Title Browse"
E. click on the journal name
F. click on "journal issues"
G. click on the issues identified below

American Journal of Public Health (Vol. 90, No. 10, October 2000). Note: This journal is available in electronic full-text in the EBSCO Academic Search Elite Database and the ProQuest Research Library. Check your library for the availability of these databases and this issue.

Journal of Gerontological Social Work (Vol. 33, No. 3, 2000).


IV. Conferences:

17. HCFA AND SPRY FOUNDATION: "Medicare & You 2001," a free interactive video teleconference co-sponsored by the US Health Care Financing Administration and the SPRY Foundation. For more information, including downlink locations see:


V. Legislation Information Updates:

18. US HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE, HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING PUBLICATION: "Management of the Medicare Program," (Printed Hearing #106-42, February 1999, ASCII text and .pdf format, 106p.).

Scroll to: "#1. Management of the Medicare Program" and click on "Printed Hearing #106-42," or "PDF" for ASCII text or .pdf full text.

19. US HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE HEARING PUBLICATION: "The President's Social Security Legislation" (Printed Hearing #106-33, November 1999, ASCII text and .pdf format, 102p.).

Scroll to or "find in page" "106-33."


VI. Websites of Interest:

20. PBS MEDICARE/PRESCRIPTION DRUGS: Produced as a supplement to a Public Broadcasting System _Online Newshour_ segment that aired October 5, 2000 ("Michigan Rx"), this site provides links to the segment, a state by state listing of the medicare population and percentage of population enrolled in medicare, an interactive quiz on prescription drugs, information from a prescription drugs survey conducted by the Online Newshour, Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, and links to Kaiser Family Foundation information on the topic.


The Academy has added a new publication to its "Chronic and Disabling Conditions Data Profiles" page. Report #12 is titled "Hypertension" (.pdf format, 6p.). Much of the data in the report is taken from the 1996 Medicare Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the 1994 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), and Wave 1 of the Health and Retirement Survey (HRS 1992).

Chronic and Disabling Conditions.

22. AOA UPDATE ON OLDER AMERICANS ACT REAUTHORIZATION: The US Administration on Aging has updated its website which tracks developments on the Older Americans Act reauthorization to reflect developments of early October 2000.

Jack Solock
Data Librarian--Center for Demography and Ecology and Center for Demography of Health and Aging
4470 Social Science
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706