Two recent surveys of household wealth funded by the National Institute on Aging, one of households containing people ages 51-61 and the other of households containing at least one person over age 70, show not only tremendous racial and ethnic disparities in wealth but also great disparities between the poor and the wealthy that are not fully accounted for by differences in income. Household wealth is adversely affected by family breakup, worsening health, and stringent asset tests that provide a disincentive for the poor to save. Although middle-aged people seem to have savings adequate for retirement, those in their 20s and 30s do not. Our long-run policy goals should be to place realistic limits on Social Security and Medicare, to encourage private savings through such moves as a consumption tax and a mandatory Provident-type fund, and to change asset limits in means-tested programs for the poor.
This report is part of the RAND Corporation Documented briefing series. RAND documented briefings are based on research presented to a client, sponsor, or targeted audience in briefing format. Additional information is provided in the documented briefing in the form of the written narration accompanying the briefing charts. All RAND documented briefings undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity. However, they are not expected to be comprehensive and may present preliminary findings. Major research findings are published in the monograph series; supporting or preliminary research is published in the technical report series.
This research in the public interest was supported by RAND, using discretionary funds made possible by the generosity of RAND's donors, the fees earned on client-funded research, and independent research and development (IR&D) funds provided by the Department of Defense.
This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit www.rand.org/pubs/permissions.
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.