Social Security - The New School SCEPA

"Never ever ever will Social Security be eliminated", SCEPA Director Teresa Ghilarducci told Yahoo Finance recently, "the political and economic case for the program have never been stronger".

Policy Note | The Social Security benefit structure penalizes people who claim before age 70. Yet over one-fifth of eligible people claim before their full retirement age (age 67 for those born in 1960), and over 90 percent claim before the maximum age of 70, resulting in reduced monthly benefits. While many claim early out of necessity, financial advisors often recommend to those with retirement savings to spend down their savings before tapping into Social Security to increase their lifetime monthly benefit.

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NEW YORK, NY | The Social Security Administration (SSA) has awarded The City University of New York and The New School a five-year, multimillion-dollar cooperative agreement to establish one of six national centers in the federal agency’s Retirement and Disability Research Consortium.

Funding for the first year will be more than $1.9 million with similar amounts expected in each of the remaining four years.

The newly created New York Retirement and Disability Research Center (NY-RDRC) will be a collaboration between the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research housed at Baruch College, the Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging at Hunter College and the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at The New School.

With funding that began Sept. 30, the new center will conduct interdisciplinary research focused on the multi-faceted challenges faced by populations served by Social Security Administration programs — older adults, children dependent on Social Security, and people with disabilities — and train the next generation of scholars to provide the agency with data, insights and policy recommendations.

“CUNY is proud to partner with The New School in creating an important new research center whose work will help the Social Security Administration pursue policies that improve the lives of millions of people in New York and across the country,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “CUNY is committed to reducing health and economic disparities and this partnership exemplifies how we are expanding research opportunities for CUNY students by creating collaborations across disciplines, across our campuses and with partner institutions.”

With CUNY’s participation, the new center is one of the first in the SSA Retirement and Disability Research Consortium led by a minority-serving institution. It joins RDRC centers at Boston College, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the National Bureau of Economic Research, the University of Michigan, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Additionally, partner institutions include the University of Massachusetts-Boston, Spelman College, Howard University, the University of Baltimore, Brandeis University, and Montana State University. It will bring together interdisciplinary scholarship and methods from demography, economics, public health, social gerontology, sociology, and urban planning.

The New York-based research center will focus on the disparities in health, wealth, income and social class that shape work quality, retirement income security, morbidity and longevity in older ages. It will also examine disparities arising from the larger political economy, geographical divides between urban, suburban and rural places, the changing nature of employment and the workplace, and climate instability.

NY-RDRC will provide training opportunities for diverse students and scholars by offering a wide range of research fellowships to students of all levels, paid summer training internships and post-doctoral fellowships. This will give students practical training in research and policy analysis as well as access to faculty and resources at CUNY and The New School.

“This award unites the expertise of two of New York's premier institutions of higher education to confront rising disparities in aging and disability,” said New School Interim President Donna E. Shalala. “Harnessing The New School’s innovative interdisciplinary scholarship and its commitment to racial equity and civic engagement to the newly created NY-RDRC will reshape policy and promote the well-being of older workers and seniors nationwide. Professor Teresa Ghilarducci, a nationally recognized expert on retirement security and director of the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis, will lead our effort.”

“Hunter College is honored to partner with the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research at Baruch College and The New School in this vital national project to address the disparities that have negatively affected the health and well-being of so many older Americans,” said Hunter Interim President Ann Kirschner. “Our Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and its director, Ruth Finkelstein, bring to the center decades of research and problem-solving among some of America’s most disadvantaged seniors. It is fitting, too, that Hunter will participate in a partnership sponsored by the Social Security Administration. Our Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, the former home of Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, was the birthplace of the New Deal and the old-age pensions that became Social Security.”

“Baruch College, an institution driven by learning and intellectual discovery, is proud to be the host of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research since its inception in 2007,” said Baruch College President S. David Wu. “This major, first-of-its kind project between CUNY and The New School reflects Baruch’s strategic priorities to foster faculty research that is impactful and to empower our students to succeed by providing research opportunities on all levels. The New York Retirement and Disability Research Center complements the work already accomplished by Baruch students and faculty in the field of retirement and disability. This funding creates new pathways for interdisciplinary collaboration, focusing on today’s pressing social and economic issues: the disparities in health, wealth, income, and social class that shape work quality, retirement income security, morbidity, and longevity in older ages.”


Hunter College’s Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging has been working to improve the lives of older adults for almost 50 years. It was founded by Dr. Rose Dobrof, a pioneer in the field of social gerontology, and has been committed to advancing policy and practice to promote a good old age for all. The center recognizes that aging is not a disease, but another stage in the life course that can be influenced by how we live. The center conducts community-based participatory and mixed methods research, as well as development and evaluation of new policy and practice solutions. By communicating its findings to colleagues in the field of aging and policymakers, the center works to change the lives of older adults, especially those who experience hardship and inequality because of cumulative disadvantage over the life course.

The CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (CIDR), located at Baruch College, leads the intellectual community of demographers in the New York metropolitan area and fosters connections among population researchers across disciplines within CUNY and with collaborators in New York City and beyond. The research interests of its prominent faculty span a wide range of fields within the discipline including aging, biodemography, economic demography, family dynamics, fertility, inequality, migration, mortality, race and ethnic studies, spatial demography, urbanization, and population-climate interactions. CIDR supports the research and ancillary training activities of doctoral students at the CUNY Graduate Center and engages broadly with CUNY students of all levels on demographic research and subjects.

The Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (SCEPA) is an economic policy think tank located in the department of Economics at The New School for Social Research. SCEPA’s mission is to elevate critical and institutional economic research to improve mainstream policymaking. The Center's research approach emphasizes the need for economic policies that promote social welfare, economic justice, and sustainable growth. SCEPA collaborates with scholars, policymakers, and advocacy groups to produce timely and relevant research that informs public discourse and influences policy decisions. The Center is committed to advancing economic analysis and policy development that promotes the well-being of all individuals and communities.

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, a transformative engine of social mobility that is a critical component of the lifeblood of New York City. Founded in 1847 as the nation’s first free public institution of higher education, CUNY today has seven community colleges, 11 senior colleges and seven graduate or professional institutions spread across New York City’s five boroughs, serving over 225,000 undergraduate and graduate students and awarding 55,000 degrees each year. CUNY’s mix of quality and affordability propels almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all the Ivy League colleges combined. More than 80 percent of the University’s graduates stay in New York, contributing to all aspects of the city’s economic, civic and cultural life and diversifying the city’s workforce in every sector. CUNY’s graduates and faculty have received many prestigious honors, including 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. The University’s historic mission continues to this day: provide a first-rate public education to all students, regardless of means or background. To learn more about CUNY, visit

Founded in 1919, The New School was established to advance academic freedom, tolerance, and experimentation. A century later, The New School remains at the forefront of innovation in higher education, inspiring more than 10,000 undergraduate and graduate students to challenge the status quo in design and the social sciences, liberal arts, management, the arts, and media. The university welcomes thousands of adult learners annually for continuing education courses and public programs that encourage open discourse and social engagement. Through our online learning portals, research institutes, and international partnerships, The New School maintains a global presence.

Policy Note | Challenging the widespread assumption that people claim their retirement benefits only when they retire, more than one-fifth of older workers in the United States start claiming Social Security benefits as soon as they are eligible, even while working for pay. Low-income older workers are more than three times as likely as high-income workers to claim early, indicating a reliance on Social Security payments to supplement low wages. Those who claim before the full retirement age (also known as the Normal Retirement Age) will receive reduced benefits throughout their lives, leaving them financially vulnerable once they stop working. Because so many older workers collect reduced Social Security benefits, raising the retirement age will have little effect on getting people to work longer and will simply reduce benefits further. Instead, reforms should focus on policies like creating an Older Workers Bureau to support work at older ages, and bolstering Social Security benefits for those who risk falling into poverty in retirement.

Policy Note | Social Security is the most essential and well-functioning part of the U.S. retirement system. Any reforms to federal retirement policy—while necessary and long overdue—must be built on the foundation of a protected and strengthened Social Security system. More than 60 percent of adults 65 and older receive most of their income from Social Security and all recipients benefit from the annuitized income the system provides. Despite calls to cut benefits and misleading claims about its finances, Social Security should be bolstered and expanded.

Working Paper | Social Security “Catch-Up” contributions would allow workers to contribute an additional 3.1 percent of salary, starting at age 50, in return for enhanced benefits. The program would modestly reduce defacto elderly poverty and reduce the Social Security shortfall in the short run and be approximately actuarially neutral over 75 years.

Working Paper—Since the early 1990s, disparities in Social Security claim ages has grown, with high earners increasingly likely to delay claiming. A SCEPA working paper explores the returns and effects of claiming Social Security earlier versus delaying claiming these benefits.

Brief— Working longer is often proposed as the solution to the retirement crisis caused by older workers’ lack of retirement assets, but new research from SCEPA's ReLab shows this assumption doesn't match older workers' real experiences in the labor market.

Brief— Working longer is often proposed as the solution to the retirement crisis caused by older workers’ lack of retirement assets, but new research from SCEPA's ReLab shows this assumption doesn't match older workers' real experiences in the labor market.

Last updated July 20, 2020.

A compendium of economic thoughts and policy recommendations in response to the coronavirus. 

Brief— Workers at all earnings levels would benefit from expanding Social Security. SCEPA proposes defaulting workers into “Catch-Up” contributions, where— starting at age 50— they would contribute an additional 3.1% of their salary. 

Brief— Social Security benefits are progressive and reduce the unequal distribution of retirement wealth generated by a broken employer-based retirement systemSocial Security benefits are progressive and reduce the unequal distribution of retirement wealth generated by a broken employer-based retirement system.

Working paper— This study evaluates a Social Security "Catch-Up" contribution program, a proposal which would help mid-career workers narrow the gap between what they need in retirement and their projected retirement wealth. 

The rates of elder poverty among widows and single women are higher than among couples and men.

Older workers have not been able to save adequately for retirement.

Older workers have not been able to save adequately for retirement.