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There are clear distinctions between the legal relationships creating private pension entitlement and Social Security benefit entitlement. Nonetheless, an analysis of the function and context of retirement income rights reveals that the presumed gulf between public and private rights in this area is not nearly so wide as it may at first seem. In this Article I examine the historical roots and evolution of the American system of entitlement to old-age income security in order to understand why in one technical area--the integration of private pension plans with Social Security--workers' presumed entitlement to private pensions is less secure than their entitlement to Social Security. My starting point is a seemingly straightforward question: Why does the primary direct statutory link between Social Security and private pensions-- pension integration--result in lower private pension benefits for the portion of the worker population, low-wage workers, that the 1935 Social Security Act was expressly designed to benefit? To answer that question, it is necessary to go far beyond the technical structure of the pension nondiscrimination rules, and examine the historical and political evolution of old-age entitlements and the modern institution of voluntary old-age retirement. The peculiarly prospective character of retirement entitlements is the key to discovering a consistent set of principles upon which an appropriate relationship between public and private retirement benefits can be based.