Teresa Ghilarducci

Teresa Ghilarducci is a professor of economics at Notre Dame and author of the forthcoming book, The Attack on Retirement.

Recent Articles

Republicans Moving Fast to Block Retirement Security

Congressional Republicans have set out to undo an Obama administration rule that makes it easier for states and cities to expand retirement options for private-sector workers.

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
On February 15, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 231-193—one Texas Democrat voted for and three Republicans voted against—to take a step backward on retirement security. And, in the first weeks of March, the Senate will take up the question of whether to rescind a late-in-the-game Obama Department of Labor rule—“Savings Arrangements Established by States for Non-Governmental Employees”—that provides legal support to cities and states that enacted or are considering plans to provide retirement accounts to private-sector workers, the majority of whom do not have a retirement plan at work. If Republicans succeed in rolling back the DOL regulations, they will destroy the best chance 63 million American workers have to get access to a retirement plan. These states took the responsible first step to save their residents from a retirement crisis defined by low coverage and inadequate savings, and protect their taxpayers from the fiscal crisis that...

Senior Class: America's Unequal Retirement

One of the cruelest manifestations of widening inequality happens in life's final quarter.

(Illustration: Victor Juhasz)
This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Celebrate our 25th Anniversary with us by clicking here for a free download of this special issue . Inequality has been increasing in multiple ways. But one little-appreciated form is the inequality of retirement time. That’s the number of years between retirement and death. It’s not surprising that divergent retirement time should reflect other forms of growing inequality. The poor have lower earnings and often work longer out of necessity, not choice. They are less likely to have decent pensions or private savings. On average, they suffer poorer health and tend to die younger. On all counts, the affluent get to enjoy more years of retirement in relative comfort. This is just what one would expect in a market economy of rising inequality. What is surprising, however, is that there was once a broadly equal distribution of retirement time across divisions of class and race. This greater...

The Collapse of Secure Retirement

The dream of a modestly middle-class retirement is fading.

While many in Washington and on Wall Street are talking about cutting Social Security, the real problem is that America's patchwork retirement system is already eroding. Once, the majority of America's seniors could look forward to at least a modestly middle-class retirement. That dream is fading. America's retirement system is said to be a three-legged stool made up of private savings, pension plans, and Social Security. But each leg of the stool is wobbly, while a fourth unacknowledged leg -- asset accumulation from home equity -- has also taken a huge hit. Absent drastic changes in retirement policy, more elderly Americans will be poor, and many more will be working, often in low-wage jobs, because they can't afford to retire. Even without further cuts, the normal Social Security retirement age is set to increase to 67 in 2022. Compared to where it was before the last major changes enacted in 1983, Social Security has already been cut close to 20 percent, in terms of how much wage...

Forget Retirement. Get to Work.

A popular myth is that because we live longer, we should work longer. But while Americans indeed enjoy longer life spans, a great many are not happy to be in the paid workforce. They are working not for the social or intellectual stimulation but out of plain economic need. They are working because America's pension system is collapsing -- and the more it collapses, the more older Americans will have to work. Further, when financially independent retirees are not dependent on paid employment, it's good for the economy as well as for older people themselves. For one thing, secure retirement frees jobs for younger workers. For another, it helps maintain demand during economic downturns. And with both fathers and mothers of young children increasingly in the paid labor force, pensioners are a source of civic and volunteer energy for their communities. Yet the prevailing wisdom is that old folks need to go back to work to ease the strain on retirement systems. Even some liberals are...

Rewarding Work: Feasible Antipoverty Policy

A higher minimum wage and the earned income tax credit fit like puzzle pieces, each compensating for the other's flaws. Together they are our best bet to fight poverty.

V irtually all economists who have studied the changing income distribution have confirmed what nearly everyone else knows. For most Americans, living standards are stagnating and becoming more unstable. For the bottom half, income is falling. And the prime culprit is not shifts in family values or the work ethic, or even changes in taxes and social benefits. Most of the problem is the erosion of wage and salary income. The causes are multiple [see Bluestone, " The Inequality Express ," TAP , Winter 1995], but there are proven methods for cushioning the impact by raising incomes at the bottom and providing "wage insurance" for those at risk. Chief among these are the minimum wage and the earned income tax credit (EITC). The two fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces. Each has an inherent weakness—but the weakness in one is precisely the strength of the other. The problem is that the real value of the minimum wage is shrinking and the EITC is under attack. THE FATE OF AMERICAN...