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When You Claim Social Security Influences Whether Your Spouse Enters Poverty in Widowhood

When You Claim Social Security Influences Whether Your Spouse Enters Poverty in Widowhood

May 31, 2016

A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that when the primary wage earner in a marriage claims Social Security can significantly affect whether that person’s spouse becomes impoverished in later life. To understand the work, it’s important to understand the basics of how Social Security works. Social Security provides workers with a fixed monthly income when they reach retirement age, and workers get to choose when to begin receiving their Social Security payments after age 62. The earlier a worker claims Social Security, the lower the monthly payment. And spouses of primary earners are eligible to keep receiving their partner’s Social Security payments as a “survivor benefit” when the primary earner dies. “We wanted to see what effect Social Security claim age has on spouses in widowhood,” says Jeffrey Diebold, an assistant professor of public administration at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work. “Specifically, in cases where husbands are the primary earners, does claiming Social Security earlier put wives at risk of poverty if they become widows? And the answer was yes.” This is an important issue, because 43 percent of Social Security beneficiaries who live in poverty are widows. Currently, more than 20 percent of widows rely on Social Security for all of their income; and Social Security makes up 80 percent of total income for more than 40 percent of widows. For the study, researchers looked at a data on 197 widows that was collected as part of the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. The researchers found that, on average, annual survivor benefits increased by $660 for each year that a primary earner delayed claiming Social Security after age 62. So, if the primary earner – the husbands, in this case – delayed claiming Social Security until age 70, he would increase his widow’s annual benefit by $5,300. “By waiting to claim Social Security from age 62 to age 63, husbands reduced the likelihood of their wives entering poverty by six percentage points,” Diebold says. “This change represented a reduction in the risk of poverty of more than 50 percent for the average widow in the sample. This risk reduction gets smaller with each...

When You Claim Social Security Influences Whether Your Spouse Enters Poverty in Widowhood

When You Claim Social Security Influences Whether Your Spouse Enters Poverty in Widowhood

May 30, 2016

A recent study from North Carolina State University finds that when the primary wage earner in a marriage claims Social Security can significantly affect whether that person’s spouse becomes impoverished in later life. To understand the work, it’s important to understand the basics of how Social Security works. Social Security provides workers with a fixed monthly income when they reach retirement age, and workers get to choose when to begin receiving their Social Security payments after age 62. The earlier a worker claims Social Security, the lower the monthly payment. And spouses of primary earners are eligible to keep receiving their partner’s Social Security payments as a “survivor benefit” when the primary earner dies. “We wanted to see what effect Social Security claim age has on spouses in widowhood,” says Jeffrey Diebold, an assistant professor of public administration at NC State and lead author of a paper on the work. “Specifically, in cases where husbands are the primary earners, does claiming Social Security earlier put wives at risk of poverty if they become widows? And the answer was yes.” This is an important issue, because 43 percent of Social Security beneficiaries who live in poverty are widows. Currently, more than 20 percent of widows rely on Social Security for all of their income; and Social Security makes up 80 percent of total income for more than 40 percent of widows. For the study, researchers looked at a data on 197 widows that was collected as part of the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. The researchers found that, on average, annual survivor benefits increased by $660 for each year that a primary earner delayed claiming Social Security after age 62. So, if the primary earner – the husbands, in this case – delayed claiming Social Security until age 70, he would increase his widow’s annual benefit by $5,300. “By waiting to claim Social Security from age 62 to age 63, husbands reduced the likelihood of their wives entering poverty by six percentage points,” Diebold says. “This change represented a reduction in the risk of poverty of more than 50 percent for the average widow in the sample. This risk reduction gets smaller with each...

Pregnant T. Rex Could Aid in Dino Sex-Typing

Pregnant T. Rex Could Aid in Dino Sex-Typing

May 26, 2016

A pregnant Tyrannosaurus rex that roamed Montana 68 million years ago may be the key to discerning gender differences between theropod, or meat-eating dinosaur, species. Researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences have confirmed the presence of medullary bone – a gender-specific reproductive tissue – in a fossilized T. rex femur. Beyond giving paleontologists a definitively female fossil to study, their findings could shed light on the evolution of egg laying in modern birds. Medullary bone is only found in female birds, and then only during the period before or during egg laying. It is chemically distinct from other bone types, like the dense cortical bone that makes up the outer portion of our bones, or the spongy cancellous bone found inside them. This is because medullary bone has to be laid down and mobilized quickly in order for birds to shell their eggs. Theropod dinosaurs, the broader dinosaurian group that includes modern birds and other toothy relatives such as T. rex, also laid eggs in order to reproduce, and paleontologists have hypothesized that they may have had medullary bone as well. In 2005, Mary Schweitzer, an NC State paleontologist with a joint appointment at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences and lead author of a paper describing the research, found what she believed to be medullary bone in the femur of a 68 million year old T. rex fossil (MOR 1125). “All the evidence we had at the time pointed to this tissue being medullary bone,” Schweitzer says, “but there are some bone diseases that occur in birds, like osteopetrosis, that can mimic the appearance of medullary bone under the microscope. So to be sure we needed to do chemical analysis of the tissue.” Medullary bone contains keratan sulfate, a substance not present in other bone types, but it was previously thought that none of the original chemistry of dinosaur bone would survive millions of years. However,  Schweitzer and her colleagues conducted a number of different tests on the T. rex sample, including testing for keratan sulfate using monoclonal antibodies, and compared their results to the same tests performed on known medullary tissue from ostrich and...

Faster Discovery of New Materials

Faster Discovery of New Materials

May 21, 2016

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) recently demonstrated how an informatics-based adaptive design strategy (aka machine learning), tightly coupled to experiments, can accelerate the discovery of new materials with targeted properties. The researchers have applied the adaptive-design strategy to reveal targeted properties in shape-memory alloy. This article, Faster Discovery of New Materials, first appeared on New Energy and...

Navigating multiple myeloma with Google Maps for the cancer genome

Navigating multiple myeloma with Google Maps for the cancer genome

May 16, 2016

Shiguo Zhou (left) and David C. Schwartz look at the path that blue laser light follows — through focusing optics and beam splitters — before leading to one of their automated research microscopes in the Laboratory for Molecular and Computational Genomics. Photo: Jeff Miller In some ways, studying the genetics of cancer has been like examining the individual tiles on a mosaic, says David C. Schwartz, a professor of genetics and chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To make his point, he brings his face close to the table where he sits — his mosaic for the purpose of illustration — and describes the details of each imaginary tile. “I can get an accounting of the tiles,” he says, “but I can’t see the whole picture because I can’t step back far enough.” In a new study published June 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Schwartz and his research team, spearheaded by recently minted Ph.D. Aditya Gupta, describe a new approach for studying the cancer genome that Schwartz says will let scientists account for both the individual tiles and the whole mosaic. It enables researchers and clinicians to look at the small- and large-scale genetic changes that define individual cancers. By using the approach in the study, the researchers describe unique genomic features of a tumor from a patient with multiple myeloma and identify potential new drug targets for the treatment of this incurable blood cancer. “Cancer genomes are complicated but we found that, using an approach like this, you can begin to understand them at every level,” Schwartz says. David Schwartz Put another way, the approach is like creating a Google Maps for cancer. It could allow scientists and clinicians to zoom in for a “street view” of individual changes in the genetic alphabet of cancer, or zoom out for a more Google Earth-style perspective of whole genome changes and everything in between. It could allow them to examine changes in a patient’s cancer over the progression of the illness, monitor for signs of drug resistance, and fine-tune treatments, Schwartz says. While the study does not carry statistical power — only one patient’s tumor was analyzed — it opens...

Investigating the Owl to Develop New Technology

Investigating the Owl to Develop New Technology

May 8, 2016

Anupam Sharma earns NSF CAREER award to study the silent flight of the owl. As new inventions fill our skies, from wind turbines whirling in an open field, to unmanned aerial vehicles scurrying around the city delivering packages, to planes buzzing 35,000 feet overhead, that new technology can pose a noisy problem. Anupam Sharma, an assistant professor in the Department of Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University, is turning to an unusual source to make technology quieter. Sharma is researching nocturnal owls, specifically the Barn owl (Tyto Alba), to understand what makes the bird so quiet during flight, and use bio-inspiration to develop nearly silent aircraft, UAVs, and wind turbines. The Barn owl is known for its amazingly silent flight. It is so quiet that you cannot hear it until it is only three meters away. While the ability of the owl to fly silently has been known, the physical mechanisms behind it are not. That is what Sharma and his team are planning to research. The team has acquired multiple owl wing specimens to analyze the owl wing anatomy and plumage characteristics. The plumage of the owl has three unique characteristics that Sharma and his team will be investigating. (Click to enlarge) “First, if you look at the leading edge (front part) of the wing, you can see a fine, comb-like structure,” Sharma explained. “if you look at the trailing edge, there is a soft, fringe structure. And finally, if you look under a microscope, the hairs on the feathers rise up vertically and then plateau, giving it a canopy type structure.” These three features are unique to the owl and are believed to be responsible for its acoustic stealth. Sharma and his team are using state-of-the-art computational techniques and experiments in the anechoic chamber at ISU to investigate these features. Success in the proposed research can have a transformative effect on a wide range of industries. “One thing that almost everyone is ignoring is noise from unmanned aerial vehicles,” Sharma said. “In the near future, they will be everywhere – assisting with surveillance, farming, delivery, etc. Noise from these vehicles is going to be an issue that needs to be tackled right...