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Technical Panels of the Board

Prior to the Board’s involvement, Technical Panels were appointed by quadrennial Advisory Councils on Social Security, starting with the 1969-1971 Advisory Council.  Five quadrennial Advisory Councils (1969-1971, 1974-1975, 1978-1979, 1991, and 1994-1996) convened panels of experts to assist them in their deliberations.  Those panels, generally consisting of economists and actuaries, were charged primarily with reviewing the economic and demographic assumptions and the methodology underlying the cost projections included in the most recent Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trustees Report.  Only the 1991 Council appointed a technical panel to look solely at the Medicare projections, and it met in the same year as the OASDI technical panel appointed by the Council.  The 1984 Advisory Council, which focused almost exclusively on Medicare, and the 1988 Council, which looked at the disability program, did not convene technical panels.   

In many ways, the Advisory Board was seen as a permanent replacement for the Advisory Councils.  In 1998 the Advisory Board assumed the role of the Advisory Councils in appointing technical panels to provide advice on the assumptions and methods used in the Trustees Report to evaluate the status of the OASDI Trust Funds.

In a 1998 letter from former Board Chair Stan Ross to Treasury Secretary (and managing Trustee) Robert Rubin, Mr. Ross wrote:

…based on the law and legislative history, we believe that the Board has both the responsibility and statutory authority to undertake the appointment of technical panels to review the assumptions and methodologies used in making Trust Fund projections.

Most importantly, we believe the appointment of the technical panels by the Social Security Advisory board would provide those panels with the independence and legitimacy they need in order to generate public confidence in their work.  The advice that the board of Trustees and the Social Security actuaries receive in developing their assumptions and methods needs to be regarded as not only technically competent, but highly credible to the Congress and the public as well.  A technical panel appointed by the Advisory Board, which is made up of members appointed by the President, the Speaker of the House, and the President pro tempore of the Senate, and includes both Democrats and Republicans, can provide that credibility.  There is no other existing entity that deals with Social Security issues that can add this bipartisan, bicameral quality to the appointment process, and is also without and real or apparent conflict of interest.

This arrangement met with no controversy and the first Technical Panel appointed by the Advisory Board, chaired by Eugene Steuerle of the Urban Institute, met from January through September 1999 and issued its report in November.  The 2003 Technical Panel, chaired by Professor Robert Clark from North Carolina State University, met from January through September 2003 and issued its report in October.  In addition to its charter to review the assumptions and methods used in the Trustees Report to evaluate the status of the OASDI Trust Funds, the panel was asked to review, in particular, the likely rate of labor force participation of older persons.  In addition, the panel was asked to review and assess the status of the recommendations made by the 1999 Technical Panel.

The Board’s third Panel, chaired by former Congressional Budget Office Director Dan Crippen, met from August 2006 through September of 2007 and issued its report in October.  In addition to its charter to review the assumptions and methods used in the Trustees Report, the panel was asked to review, in particular, the trends in the earnings to total compensation ratio in light of the changing structure and cost of employee benefits including pensions, health and disability insurance.  In addition, the 2007 Technical Panel was asked to review and assess the status of the recommendations made by the 1999 and 2003 Technical Panels.  The 2011 panel was chaired by Professor Brigitte Madrian from Harvard University, and met from September 2010 to July 2011.  The panel’s charter added to its traditional role a charge to look specifically at wage inequality, disability prevalence, structural changes due to the Great Recession, and improving presentation of certain issues in the Trustees Report.

The final reports of each panel were published and disseminated by the Board.  At the conclusion of the 1999 Panel, the Board sponsored a public forum to discuss the panel’s recommendations.  In 2007 and 2011, after issuing the panel’s final reports, the Board arranged for a briefing session first between the panel’s and the Board members, and subsequently between the panel and the so-called Trustees Working Group, chaired by the Assistant Treasury Secretary for Economic Policy and including the two Public Trustees and the key staff members of the other four trustees from Treasury, HHS, Labor and SSA.  The 2011 briefing was also attended by the Commissioner of Social Security as well as the two public Trustees.

In conclusion, the membership and charter of these Panels has over time been very similar.  A group of actuaries, economists, demographers and other experts were asked to provide independent review of the demographic and economic assumptions and methods used in the Trustees’ long-range projections of the status of the OASDI Trust Funds.  Each panel was provided additional, more specific topics to address.  The long continuous history of the technical panels speaks to the widespread recognition that periodic, in-depth review of these very important issues by independent experts is critical to provide the general public as well as policy makers with confidence in the Trustees’ Report on the programs and to generate ideas for how to improve those reports over time.

The findings of the 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011 Panels are available by clicking on the links below.

1999 Technical Panel Report

2003 Technical Panel Report

2007 Technical Panel Report

2011 Technical Panel Report

 

1999 Technical Panel

The Panel of expert actuaries, economists, and demographers appointed by the Board is charged with providing technical assistance to the Board by reviewing the assumptions and methodology used by the Board of Trustees of the OASDI Trust Funds to project the future financial status of the funds.

Specifically, the Panel is asked to:

  • Review key economic assumptions: productivity and labor force participation, real wage growth, and the real interest rate and provide expert opinion regarding the interaction of changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) with other economic assumptions.
  • Review the assumptions regarding key demographic factors: in particular, mortality; but also fertility, immigration, and disability incidence and duration.
  • Provide expert opinion regarding expected growth in equity markets, projected return on equity investments, and effects of possible investments of Social Security funds on equity markets and the national economy.
  • Review current forecasting methods. Address concerns about the internal consistency of the Alternative I and III assumptions. Provide expert opinion regarding alternative modeling methodologies that may best illustrate the probability of variations around the central projections.

Members

Eugene Steuerle (Chair), Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute

Andrew Abel, Professor of Finance and Economics, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Barry Bosworth, Senior Fellow, Economics Studies Department, The Brookings Institution

Edward Frees, Professor of Business, University of Wisconsin (Fellow, Society of Actuaries)

Ronald Lee, Professor of Demography and Economics, University of California at Berkeley

Deborah Lucas, Professor of Finance, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

David McKusick, Senior Actuary, Actuarial Research Corporation (Fellow, Society of Actuaries)

Martha F. Riche, President, Martha Farnsworth Riche and Associates

John Rust, Professor of Economics, Yale University

Andrew Samwick, Assistant Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

Timothy M. Smeeding, Director and Professor of Economics and Public Administration, Center for Policy Research, Syracuse University

Michael Sze, Adjunct Professor of Mathematics, University of Michigan (Fellow, Society of Actuaries)

  

To view the 1999 Technical Panel Report click here.

 

2003 Technical Panel

The Panel of expert actuaries, economists, and demographers appointed by the Board is charged with providing technical assistance to the Board by reviewing the assumptions specified by the Board of Trustees of the OASDI Trust Funds and the methods used by the Social Security actuaries to project the future financial status of the funds.

Specifically, the Panel is asked to:

  • Review the assumptions regarding key demographic factors, including mortality, fertility, immigration, and disability incidence and termination.
  • Review the assumptions regarding key economic factors, including productivity, real wage growth, real net rates of return and variations in net rates of return (including equity returns), consumer price increases, labor force participation, and rates of employment and unemployment.
  • Review in particular the likely rate of labor force participation of older persons.
  • Review and assess the projection methodology.
  • Review and assess the status of the recommendations of the 1999 Technical Panel.

Members

Robert L. Clark (Chair), Professor, Departments of Business Management and Economics, North Carolina State University

Katharine G. Abraham, Professor, Joint Program in Survey Methodology, University of Maryland, and former Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics

Richard V. Burkhauser, Professor and Chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Management, Cornell University

Robert J. Gordon, Stanley G. Harris Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

Stephen G. Kellison, Consultant and former Public Trustee of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds

Anna M. Rappaport, Principal, Mercer Human Resource Consulting

Kevin J. Stiroh, Research Officer, Federal Reserve Bank of New York

John R. Wilmoth, Associate Professor and Graduate Advisory, Department of Demography, University of California at Berkeley

 

To view the 2003 Technical Panel Report click here.

 

2007 Technical Panel

The Panel of expert actuaries, economists and demographers appointed by the Board is charged with providing technical assistance to the Board by reviewing the assumptions specified by the Board of Trustees of the OASDI Trust Funds and the methods used by the Social Security actuaries to project the future financial status of the funds.

Specifically the Panel is asked to:

  • Review the assumptions regarding key demographic factors, including mortality, fertility, immigration and disability incidence and termination.
  • Review the assumptions regarding key economic factors including productivity, real wage growth, real net rates of return and variations in net rates of return (including equity returns), consumer price increases, labor force participation, and rates of employment and unemployment.
  • Review and assess the projection methodology including other methodologies currently in use.
  • Review in particular the trends in the earnings to total compensation ratio in light of the changing structure and cost of employee benefits including pensions, health and disability insurance.
  • Review and assess the status of the recommendations of the 2003 and 1999 Technical Panel(s).

Members

Dan L. Crippen (Chair), Director, Congressional Budget Office, 1999-2003

Mary C. Daly, Vice President, Applied Microeconomic Research and Regional Development, Director, Center for the Study of Innovation and Productivity, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Robert J. Gordon, Stanley G. Harris Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Northwestern University

William Hsiao, K.T. Li Professor of Economics, Department of Health Policy and Management, Program in Health Care Financing Harvard School of Public Health

Steve Lieberman, Partner, The Moran Company

Deborah J. Lucas, Donald C. Clark/Household International Distinguished Professor of Finance, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Jeffrey S. Passel, Senior Research Associate, Pew Hispanic Center

Beth Soldo, Director, Population Aging Research Center; Distinguished Senior Scholar, Sociology, Research Associate, Population Studies Center, University of Pennsylvania

P.J. Eric Stallard, Research Professor and Associate Director for Management and Planning, Center for Demographic Studies, Duke University

Shripad Tuljapurkar, Morrison Professor of Population Studies and Professor of Biological Sciences, Stanford University

 

To view the 2007 Technical Panel Report click here.

 

2011 Technical Panel

The Panel of expert actuaries, economists and demographers appointed by the Board is charged with providing technical assistance to the Board by reviewing the assumptions specified by the Board of Trustees of the OASDI Trust Funds and the methods used by the Social Security actuaries to project the future financial status of the programs.  The Panel shall deliver a written report to the Advisory Board within nine months of the Panel’s first meeting.

Specifically, the Panel is asked to:

  • Review the assumptions regarding key demographic and economic factors--including mortality, fertility, immigration and disability incidence and termination, productivity, real wage growth, interest rates, price increases, labor force participation, and rates of employment and unemployment.
  • Review and assess current projection methodologies.
  • Review in particular:
    • The factors that affect trends in the taxable wage base such as trends in non-wage compensation and the growth rate of wages above and below the taxable maximum wage.
    • Methods of projecting prevalence of disability and labor force participation of older workers.
    • Evidence of structural economic changes as a result of the recent financial crisis that would affect key economic assumptions and frameworks, both in the short- and long-terms.
    • Ways to improve the presentation of key concepts in the Trustees report, including the interaction of the funds with the federal budget, so as to make them more accessible and informative to the public.
  • Review and assess the status of the recommendations of previous Technical Panels appointed by the Board.

Members

Brigitte C. Madrian (Chair), Aetna Professor of Public Policy and Corporate Management, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University

Janet Barr, Associate Actuary, Employee Benefits, Milliman

John Bongaarts, Vice President and Distinguished Scholar, Population Council

Mark Duggan, Professor of Business and Public Policy, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania

Melissa Favreault, Senior Fellow, The Urban Institute

Tim Marnell, Actuary, Tim Marnell, Actuarial & Benefits Consulting LLC

S. Philip Morgan, Professor of Sociology and Norb F. Schaefer Professor of International Studies, Duke University

John Sabelhaus, Chief, Microeconomic Surveys Section, Division of Research and Statistics, Federal Reserve Board

Andrew Samwick, Sandra and Arthur Irving Professor of Economics, Dartmouth College

Karen A. Woodrow-Lafield, Research Professor and Faculty Associate, Maryland Population Research Center, University of Maryland

 

 

To view the 2011 Technical Panel Report click here.

 

2015 Technical Panel

Check back soon for the 2015 Technical Panel Charter.

Members

Alicia Munnell (Chair) – Peter F. Drucker Professor of Management Sciences at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management and Director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.  Professor Munnell is a former member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and vice-president and research director at the Boston Federal Reserve.

Dr. Katharine Abraham – Professor in the Joint Program in Survey Methodology at the Maryland Population Research Center and formerly Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and member of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Dr. David Autor – Professor and Associate Department Head of the MIT Department of Economics, formerly editor of The Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Dr. Jeffrey Brown – William G. Karnes Professor of Finance and Director of the Center for Business and Public Policy at the University of Illinois and formerly member of the Social Security Advisory Board.

Dr. Peter Diamond – Institute Professor (emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, recipient of the Economic Sciences prize in memory of Alfred Nobel, and formerly president of the American Economic Association.

Dr. Claudia Goldin – Henry Lee Professor of Economics at Harvard University, Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s Development of the American Economy program, formerly president of the American Economic Association and the Economic History Association.

Sam Gutterman –Retired as Director and Consulting Actuary at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, and formerly president of the Society of Actuaries

Dr. Ronald Rindfuss – Research Professor of Sociology and Carolina Population Center Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, formerly president of the Population Association of America.

Michael Teitelbaum – Senior Research Associate in the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, formerly Vice President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and  formerly vice-chair and acting chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform.

Joe Silvestri – Retirement Research Actuary at the Society of Actuaries.

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