The life expectancy gap between the rich and the poor is increasing. And, not surprisingly, one of the many places that this gap will be felt is in the Social Security system, according to Brookings' researchers Barry Bosworth, Gary Burtless, and Kan Zhang.

"That [life expectancy] gap, when taken together with the rise in average retirement ages since the early 1990s, means the gap between lifetime benefits received by poor and less educated workers and the benefits received by high-income and well educated workers is widening in favor of the higher income workers."

And that could be one factor that challenges a program the Brooking researchers say is working.

When they do retire, America’s elderly—rich and poor alike—have been able to supplement their income with retirement benefits from Social Security and other government transfer programs. As a group, they’ve seen their incomes rise over time while the incomes of younger Americans have fallen. They’ve also experienced less inequality, which has grown at slower rates among America’s elderly than it has for America’s younger workers.

Yet new trends are emerging that could lessen the positive effects of Social Security—and policymakers should pay attention.

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